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

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

Author: Edward Tyas Cook

Release Date: July 16, 2012 [EBook #40058]

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

Florence Nightingale
from the picture by Sir William Richmond at Claydon








(August–December 1861)
Despondency after the death of Sidney Herbert—Sir George Lewis and the War Office—Lord de Grey reappointed under-secretary. II. “Saving things from the wreck”—The Herbert Hospital at Woolwich—Captain Galton at the War Office—Barracks inquiry extended to the Mediterranean—Miss Nightingale and the Volunteers. III. The American Civil War—Miss Nightingale and the nursing—British reinforcements to Canada—Miss Nightingale “working as in the times of Sidney Herbert.” IV. Miss Nightingale and Arthur Hugh Clough—His assistance to her—His death (Nov. 1861)—Her grief—Letters of condolence—Her yearning for sympathy—Illness 3
(1862, 1863)
High rate of mortality among the British army in India: Miss Nightingale as a “saviour” of the army. Her determination to obtain a Royal Commission for India on the lines of the Commission of 1857 for the home army—Lord Stanley approves the idea: Sidney Herbert, chairman, succeeded by Lord Stanley—Selection of Commissioners. II. Miss Nightingale's work for the Commission (1859–1862)—Collection of evidence from India: her circular of inquiry—Preparation of statistical evidence at home: Miss Nightingale and Dr. Farr—Miss Nightingale and the witnesses. III. Her analysis of the written reports from India: “Observations by Miss Nightingale” thereon[vi] (1862)—Circulation of the “Observations”—Account of them —Abstract of the evidence by Miss Nightingale and Dr. Sutherland. IV. Death of Sir George Lewis—Her desire to see Lord de Grey appointed to the War Office—Press notices: letter to Lord Palmerston. V. Preparation of the Report of the Commission—Miss Nightingale's part in it—The recommendations—Her suggested machinery: (1) sanitary commissions in India, (2) supervision in England—Adoption of her policy—The Report signed (May 1863). VI. Miss Nightingale's “publicity campaign”—Distribution of early copies—Press notices—Omission of her “Observations” and Indian evidence from the cheaper official issue of the Report—Separate publication by her—Re-issue of the Report with her “Observations”: circulation of the re-issue by the War Office. VII. Physical disabilities under which Miss Nightingale worked 18
“Reports not self-executive”: Miss Nightingale's determination to put the Indian Report into execution. Correspondence with Lord Stanley—His interview with Sir Charles Wood—Miss Nightingale asked to draft “Suggestions” to be sent out to India—Departmental criticism of the Report: delay. II. Death of Lord Elgin, the Viceroy—Question of his successor—Miss Nightingale's admiration for Sir John Lawrence—His appointment—Her interview with him. III. Sir John Lawrence announces the appointment of sanitary commissions in India and begs her to expedite the dispatch of the “Suggestions.”—More departmental delay—Miss Nightingale's impatience—Lord Stanley's intervention—The “Suggestions” approved and printed—Delay in sending them: circumvented by Miss Nightingale. IV. Sir John Lawrence's prompt action in India— Correspondence with Miss Nightingale—Reforms by Sir Hugh Rose (Lord Strathnairn)—Miss Nightingale's paper, How People may Live and not Die in India—Criticism of the Royal Commission's Report from India—Miss Nightingale's reply—Progress of sanitary reform in the army in India. V. Miss Nightingale as consultant and inspirer in Indian sanitary reform—Sir John Lawrence's difficulties—Lord Stanley's tribute to her—Importance of the co-operation between her and Sir John Lawrence 40
Miss Nightingale and the War Office: her position as consultant. Explanation of the position—Her expert authority on certain questions—Official legatee of Sidney Herbert—Correspondence[vii] with Sir George Lewis—Her friends at the War Office. II. Death of the permanent under-secretary—Miss Nightingale and Captain Galton's appointment—Her hopes of re-organization in the War Office. III. The Army Sanitary Commission—Miss Nightingale and improvements in barracks—Nursing in military hospitals. IV. The Army Medical School, and position of army doctors—Miss Nightingale as the doctors' champion—Lord Panmure's attack on the Herbert Hospital—Miss Nightingale's case for the defence. V. Wide range of subjects referred to her advice—The Geneva Convention (1864)—Suggestions about soldiers' and sailors' pay—Miss Nightingale's methods. VI. The State regulation of vice—Miss Nightingale's efforts on behalf of soldiers' clubs, recreation-rooms, etc. VII. Her researches into the disappearance of aboriginal races. VIII. Spiritual comfort—Memories of heroism in the Crimea 59
The years of Miss Nightingale's most trying work. Her helpers—The indispensable Dr. Sutherland—His constant service—Miss Nightingale as task-mistress—Her method of “conversation” by written notes. II. Seclusion from her friends—Her strict rule of life—Letters to Madame Mohl—Visit from Garibaldi (1864)—Her account of the interview—Appreciation of Abraham Lincoln—Death of Lord Palmerston. III. Miss Nightingale's scheme for investments by the working-classes in small freeholds—Correspondence with Mr. Villiers and Mr. Gladstone. IV. Sympathetic letters to friends—Literary correspondence with M. Mohl. V. Friendship with Mr. Jowett—Their correspondence—Miss Nightingale's work for the army and for India an accidental “call”—Her yearnings for hospital work 84
Public events in 1866 in relation to Miss Nightingale's work. Letters on those events. II. The story of a lost dispatch. Sir John Lawrence's scheme for sanitary organization in India—Miss Nightingale's anxiety to have it revised before the Liberal Government fell—The Dispatch lost at the India Office: found by Lord Ripon—His reply to it drafted, when the government fell. III. Miss Nightingale's vexation—Dr. Sutherland's absence—Visit from Lord Napier on his appointment to the governorship of Madras. IV. The Conservative Government—Miss Nightingale's desire to come in touch with the new ministers—Correspondence with Lord Cranborne (India Office) and Mr. Gathorne Hardy (Poor Law Board). V. The[viii] Austro-Prussian War—Miss Nightingale and war-nursing—Correspondence with the Princess Alice and the Crown Princess of Prussia. VI. A holiday at Embley with her mother—Private meditations 104
MANY THREADS (1867–1872)
State of the workhouse infirmaries—Report on the Metropolitan workhouses in 1866—Miss Nightingale a prime mover in the remedial legislation of 1867. II. Her friendship with Mr. William Rathbone—His scheme for introducing trained nurses into the Workhouse Infirmary at Liverpool—Negotiations with Miss Nightingale—Her friend, Miss Agnes Jones, appointed Lady Superintendent—Reforms effected by her (1865). III. Miss Nightingale's resolve to use the Liverpool experiment as a lever for reform in London—Workhouse scandals in London—Correspondence and interviews with Mr. Villiers—Friendship with Mr. Farnall, Poor Law Inspector—Miss Nightingale's scheme of Poor Law reform (1865)—Approved by Mr. Villiers—Articles in the Times—Defeat of the Government. IV. Mr. Gathorne Hardy succeeds Mr. Villiers—Removal of Mr. Farnall from London—Miss Nightingale's communications with Mr.–Villiers —Committee appointed by Mr. Hardy—Miss Nightingale invited to express her views: outlines her scheme in a Memorandum. V. Mr. Hardy's Bill (1867)—Various views of it—Miss Nightingale's efforts for its extension—Importance of the reforms included in the Bill: the starting-point of workhouse reform. VI. Success of Miss Agnes Jones's pioneer work—Her death (1868)—Miss Nightingale's account of her in Good Words—Selection of a successor—Effect of the article 123
Miss Nightingale's concern for a better organization of the public health service in India. Approaching retirement of Sir John Lawrence: her anxiety to insert “the main-spring”—Points for which she contended. II. Lord Cranborne succeeded at the India Office by Sir Stafford Northcote—Miss Nightingale's friendship with Sir Bartle Frere—She determines to advance[ix] —The “Doors versus Windows” controversy. III. Her communications with Sir S. Northcote—Interviews with him—Her scheme of organization adopted—Dispatch and other sanitary papers drafted by her. IV. Attitude of the Government of India—Letters from Sir John Lawrence—Abandonment of a female nursing scheme—Miss Nightingale's vexation. V. Continued correspondence with Sir John Lawrence—His return to England—Visit to Miss Nightingale 144
Miss Nightingale's “little Indian Department all to herself,” a main pre-occupation">preoccupation. Rest-cure at Malvern (Dec. 1867)—Visit to her mother at Lea Hurst (July–Oct. 1868)—Miss Nightingale's movements in following years. II. Mr. Jowett's plea for less official drudgery, and more literary work—Her “Note on Pauperism” in Fraser's Magazine—Interest in colonization—Interview with Mr. Goschen. III. Health work for India: (1) correspondence and interviews with Indian officials—Interviews with Lord Mayo—Correspondence with Lord Napier (Madras)—“Special cholera inquiry.” IV. An episode: Miss Nightingale's intervention to save the Army Sanitary Commission and the Army Medical School from being retrenched out of existence—Statistical evidence of sanitary reform. V. Interviews with Lord Napier of Magdala—Further correspondence with Lord Mayo—Other interviews and correspondence. VI. Health work for India: (2) acquaintance and correspondence with native Indian gentlemen—Sanitary appeal to village elders. VII. Health work for India: (3) work in connection with the Sanitary Department at the India Office—Contributions to and revision of the Indian Health Annual. VIII. Ten years' progress: How some People have Lived, not Died, in India—How much, and yet how little! 161
Miss Nightingale as a central department relating to hospitals and nurses. Criticism of hospital plans—“Suggestions” for nursing organization in public institutions. II. Visits on such subjects from great personages—Interviews and correspondence with the Crown Princess of Prussia. III. Supervision of the
Nightingale Training School—Personal influence—Miss Nightingale's reception of lady superintendents and nurses going out from the School to other posts. IV. Closing of the Midwifery
School at King's College Hospital—Miss Nightingale's Notes on Lying-in Institutions. V. The Franco-German War—Miss[x] Nightingale and the “National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded”—Communications with the Crown Princess of Germany—Red Cross Societies. VI. Miss Nightingale's continued ill-health—Dr. Sutherland's constant help
Miss Nightingale's thought of entering St. Thomas's Hospital (1872)—Dissuaded by Mr. Jowett—“This year I go out of office”—Meaning of her statement—Her connection with the War Office closed—Lord Northbrook did not come to her. II. Unsettlement and depression—Mr. Jowett's plea for literary work—Mr. Mill's plea that she should speak out recalled. III. Articles in Fraser's Magazine (1873): embodying some of her Suggestions for Thought—Froude's and Carlyle's opinions of the articles—Miss Nightingale and her critics. IV. Death of Mr. Mill—Appreciation of him by Miss Nightingale. V. Theological essays written at Mr. Jowett's suggestion—Discussions with him—Contributions to the revised edition of his Plato—Suggestions for his sermons—Collaboration in The Children's Bible—Remarks on such literary work 211
Miss Nightingale's fondness for Catholic books of devotion—Idea of making a selection—Mr. Jowett's views of mysticism. II. Miss Nightingale's Preface to her Notes from Devotional Authors of the Middle Ages. III. Interruption of work by the death of her father (1874)—His character—Death of Mrs. Bracebridge: Miss Nightingale's tributes to her and her husband—Family worries. IV. Her book on the Mystics never finished—Her own mystical life—Her private meditations—The path to perfection 231
Miss Nightingale's increased attention to the Nightingale Training School. Opening of the new buildings of St. Thomas's[xi] Hospital—Appointment of a new Medical Instructor of the Probationers, and of a “Home Sister.” II. Miss Nightingale's interviews with the probationers—Her character-sketches and other records—Her sense of humour. III. District nursing in London—Miss Florence Lees—Selections and promotions—Some favourite pupils—Wide influence of the Nightingale nurses—Miss Nightingale's close relations with her old pupils in their new posts—Her affectionate solicitude for them—Typical letters—Extent of her correspondence. IV. Her “Addresses to Probationers”—Leading ideas in them—Style of address, reminiscent of school sermons. V. Her ideal of the nurse's calling—Her belief in individual influence, not in organization—Miss Nightingale as a “Founder” 246
Miss Nightingale's work on Indian questions. Her sources of information and industrious study: her opportunities of effective action less than in earlier years. II. Continued interest in
army sanitation—Letter from Lord Napier of Magdala—Correspondence with Lord Salisbury and Lord Northbrook. III. Correspondence with Lord Salisbury and the Duke of Buckingham on the drainage of Madras. IV. Indian famines and an extension of Miss Nightingale's interests—Correspondence with Sir Arthur Cotton. V. An irrigation campaign—Miss Nightingale's appeal to Lord Salisbury for a Return of irrigation-results—Lord Salisbury on the experts—Miss Nightingale's continued advocacy of irrigation—Her article in the Nineteenth Century on “The People of India” (1878)—Correspondence with Lord Cranbrook. VI. Correspondence and interview with Mr. Gladstone—The death of Lord Lawrence. VII. Miss Nightingale's unpublished book on Indian Land Tenures and Irrigation—Her Irrigation maps. VIII. Her impatience at the slow rate of Indian reforms—Lord Salisbury's Philosophic Defence of the Policy of Draft
Miss Nightingale's house in South Street—Sir Harry Verney's house in the same street. II. Her servants—Housekeeping. III. Miss Nightingale as a hostess—Reminiscences by a nursing friend. IV. Miss Nightingale's room—Personal appearance—Rarely out of doors—Love of birds—Note on London sky-effects. V. Sojourns out of London—A “lobster-like villa” at Norwood (1875)—Annual visits with her mother at Lea Hurst—Miss Nightingale's interest in her poorer neighbours—Mother and daughter—Impression made by Miss Nightingale on her friends—Mr. Jowett—The Grand Duchess of Baden—Lady Ashburton. VI. Letters to M. and Mme. Mohl—Death of[xii] M. Mohl (1876)—Death of Dr. Parkes—Miss Nightingale's intervention once more to save the Army Medical School—The Eastern Question—Miss Paulina Irby. VII. Was Miss Nightingale's a happy life?—Letters from Mr. Jowett 300
Death of Miss Nightingale's mother—Illness—Visits to the seaside and Claydon. II. The elections of 1880—Her special preoccupations and general work at this period—Visit to St. Thomas's Hospital. III. Friendship with General Gordon and his cousin, Mrs. Hawthorn—Inquiry into nursing by Orderlies in military hospitals—Letters from General Gordon. IV. Lord Ripon's Indian policy—Miss Nightingale's enthusiasm—Her efforts to support Lord Ripon—Interviews with Indian officials and politicians—Her interest in Indian agriculture and education—The Indian Civil servants at Oxford: suggestions to Arnold Toynbee—Her paper on Lord Ripon's Bengal Land Tenure Bill. V. The Egyptian campaign of 1882—Miss Nightingale and the return of the Guards—Her appearances in public—Defects in hospital arrangements in South Africa and Egypt (1880–82)—Miss Nightingale's representations—Committee of Inquiry—Miss Nightingale and Lord Wantage. VI. Royal Red Cross conferred on her (1883)—Correspondence with the Queen—The Ilbert Bill—The hospital corps—Reforms in accordance with the Committee's recommendations—Lord Wolseley and the female nurses. VII. Progress of Lord Ripon's reforms—His resignation—Miss Nightingale's interview with his successor, Lord Dufferin—Mr. Gladstone and India—Lord Ripon's return. VIII. The Soudan expedition—Miss Nightingale and the war nurses—Reminiscences of Sister Philippa—Letters to Miss Williams—Miss Nightingale's meditations—Death of old friends 323
Miss Nightingale's “Jubilee Year”—A retrospect (1837–1887). Selection of a new matron at St. Thomas's Hospital. II. Queen Victoria's “Jubilee Institute for Nurses”—Misgivings—“The Nurses' Battle”: for and against Registration—The rival forces—Miss Nightingale's leadership of the “Anti's”—Course of the battle—The hearing by the Privy Council—The result—Miss Nightingale's standpoint. III. Her work for Indian sanitation—Political unsettlement at home—Miss Nightingale's interviews with Lord Roberts and others—Lord Roberts's introduction of female nurses into Indian military hospitals—Lady Dufferin's Association. IV. “The Sutherland[xiii] Succession”—Threatened dissolution of the Army Sanitary Committee—Proposed abolition of the Sanitary Commissioners in India—Miss Nightingale's campaign in defence—Appeal to Lord Dufferin—Communications with Lord Cross and Mr. W. H. Smith—Resignation of Lord Randolph Churchill—Mr. Smith succeeded at the War Office by Mr. Stanhope—Resignation of Dr. Sutherland—Reconstitution of the Army Sanitary Committee. V. Draft dispatch at the India Office advocating a “forward” sanitary policy—The Indian Government's resolution for the appointment of Provincial Sanitary Boards—Lord Lansdowne succeeds Lord Dufferin. VI. Miss Nightingale and village sanitation in India—Scheme for providing funds submitted to Lord Cross—Her letter circulated to the Local Governments in India—Final reply from the Government of India (1894)—Her retrospect of her Indian work. VII. Miss Nightingale and village sanitation in England—Death of her sister—Sir Harry Verney and Miss Nightingale—Her visits to Claydon—Her scheme of Health Missioners adopted by the Bucks County Council 353
Miss Nightingale's public acquaintances and private friends. Her sympathetic nature—Acquaintances made on public business passing into friendships—Sir Henry Yule. II. Affectionate sympathy with her relations—Death of her “Aunt Mai” (1889)—Letters to her younger relations—A burglary in South Street. III. Last years with Mr. Jowett—His illness in South Street (1887)—Their scheme for a “Nightingale Professorship of Statistics”—Mr. Jowett's illnesses and death (1892)—Death of Sir Harry Verney and of Mr. Shore Smith (1894). IV. Miss Nightingale on Mr. Jowett's death—Correspondence with Lord Lansdowne—Mr. Jowett's precepts on old age 385
The spirit of Rabbi Ben Ezra. The latter years to be the best—Miss Nightingale's letters in this sense—Her own fullness of work. II. Continual interest in India—Lord Elgin's village sanitary inspection. III. Interest in army affairs—Letter to the Duke of Cambridge (1895)—The Hongkong barracks (1896)—Indian cantonments (1896–97)—The Victorian Era Exhibition (1897): Crimean “relics”—Note on Waterloo Day (1898)—The South African War (1899). IV. Interest in nursing—The “Nurses' Battle” again—The true “angels”—Correspondence with the Grand Duchess of Baden and Mr. Rathbone—Death of old friends and fellow-workers. V. Gradual failure of Miss Nightingale's powers—Loss of sight—Her companions—Her[xiv] favourite reading—Visitors. VI. Honours—The Order of Merit (1907)—Freedom of the City (1908)—Her fame—Renewed cult of “The Popular Heroine.” VII. Death and funeral—Memorials 402
A. Chronological List of Writings by Miss Nightingale 437
B. List of Some Writings about Miss Nightingale 459
C. List of Portraits 467



Florence Nightingale: 1887. (From the portrait by Sir William Richmond, K.C.B., R.A.) Frontispiece
Florence Nightingale in her Room at South Street. (From a photograph by Miss E. F. Bosanquet, 1906) 306
Florence Nightingale: 1907. (From a water-colour drawing by Miss F. Amicia de Biden Footner) 418

Florence Nightingale's Handwriting: facsimile of part of a letter to John Stuart Mill, August 11, 1867 216




The question is no less an one than this: How to create a public health department for India; how to bring a higher civilization into India. What a work, what a noble task for a Government—no “inglorious period of our dominion” that, but a most glorious one! That would be creating India anew. For God places His own power, His own life-giving laws in the hands of man. He permits man to create mankind by those laws, even as He permits man to destroy mankind by neglect of those laws.—Florence Nightingale: How People may live and not die in India, 1864.




But tasks in hours of insight will'd
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd.

Matthew Arnold.

The years immediately after Sidney Herbert's death were among the busiest and most useful in Miss Nightingale's life. She was engaged during them in carrying their “joint work unfinished” into a new field. In the previous volume we saw Miss Nightingale using her position as the heroine of the Crimean War in order to become the founder of modern nursing, and to initiate reforms for the welfare of the British soldier. Among those who know, it is recognized that the services which she rendered to the British army at home were hardly greater than those which she was able to render to British India, and it was this Indian work which after Sidney Herbert's death became one of the main interests of her life. She threw herself into it, as we shall hear, with full fire, and brought to it abundant energy and resource. But first she had the memory of her friend to honour and protect; and then the hours of gloom were to be deepened by the loss of another friend hardly less dear to her.

Having finished her Paper upon Sidney Herbert, Miss Nightingale left the Burlington Hotel, never to return, and took lodgings in Hampstead (Aug.–Oct. 1861). Her mood was of deep despondency. She was inclined to shut herself off from most of her former fellow-workers. Against the outside world she double-barred her shutters. Her uncle was[4] strictly enjoined to give no one her address; she asked that all her letters might be addressed to and from his care in London. The formula was to be that “a great and overwhelming affliction entirely precludes Miss Nightingale” from seeing or writing to anybody. “For her sake it is most earnestly to be wished,” wrote her cousin Beatrice to Mr. Chadwick (Sept. 18), “that you may come into some immediate communication with her. It is your faith that her working days are not yet over, that she may work in another field, her own being now closed against her. I cannot find that any of those who have been with her lately would share this hope, less on account of her health, than of her state of extreme discouragement.” It was a case not only, perhaps not chiefly, of personal loss, but also of public vexation; it was not only that the Minister had died, it was that his work seemed like to die also. The point of view appears in her letters to Dr. Farr:—

Sept. 10. We are grateful to you for the memorial of my dear Master which you have raised to him in the hearts of the nation.[1] Indeed it is in the hearts of the nation that he will live—not in the hearts of Ministers. There he is dead already, if indeed they have any. And before he was cold in his grave, Gladstone attends his funeral and then writes to me that he cannot pledge himself to give any assistance in carrying out his friend's reforms. The reign of intelligence at the War Office is over. The reign of muffs has begun. The only rule of conduct in the bureaucracy there and in the Horse Guards is to reverse his decision, his judgment, and (if they can do nothing more) his words.

October 2.… My poor Master has been dead two months to-day, too long a time for him not to be forgotten.… The dogs have trampled on his dead body. Alas! seven years this month I have fought the good fight with the War Office and lost it!

November 2. My dear Master has been dead three months to-day. Poor Lady Herbert goes abroad this next week with the children and shuts up Wilton, the eldest boy going to school. It is as if the earth had opened and swallowed up even the Name which filled my whole life these five years.

But there were things to be done in her friend's name, and she turned to do them. The power of the bureaucracy[5] to resist was strong, because the new Secretary of State was a novice at his task, and Lord Herbert, by failing to carry through any radical reorganization of the War Office, had as she said, failed to put in “the mainspring to his works.” “The Commander-in-Chief rides over the learned Secretary of State as if he were straw.” But there was one hopeful and helpful factor in the case. Now that the Secretary for War was in the Commons, Lord de Grey was reappointed Under-Secretary. He was a genuine reformer. He knew the mind of his former Chief. He was most sympathetic to Lady Herbert. He was acquainted with Miss Nightingale. The power of an Under-Secretary is very small, but what he could do, he would. A letter which she received from a friend, both of Lord de Grey and of herself, gave her encouragement:—

(R. Monckton Milnes to Miss Nightingale.) October 21. I knew how irreparable a loss you and your objects in life had in Herbert's death, but I should like you to know how you will find Ld. de Grey willing to do all in his power to forward your great and wise designs. I say “in his power,” for that, you know, is extremely limited, but he may do something for you in an indirect way and, without much originality, he has considerable tact and adroitness. You won't like Sir G. Lewis, but somewhere or other you ought to do so; for in his sincere way of looking at things and in his critical and curious spirit he is by no means unlike yourself. He makes up his mind, no doubt, far better to the damnabilities of the work than you would do,—tho' one does not know what you would have been if you had been corrupted by public life. I write this about de Grey because I was staying with him not long ago, and he expressed himself on the subject with much earnestness.


So, then, there were some things perhaps which might yet, as she put it, be “saved from the wreck.” Lord de Grey had already given earnest both of his good will and of his courage. He had seen Lady Herbert and asked about her husband's intentions. She knew them generally, but referred for details to Miss Nightingale, who was thus able to be of some use in carrying through Lord Herbert's scheme for a Soldiers' Home at Aldershot. Then there was the[6] question of the General Hospital to be built at Woolwich. The Commander-in-Chief was opposed to the scheme, and asked Sir George Lewis to cancel it. Economy was, perhaps, behind the Minister tempting him. But Lord de Grey, who was present at the interview, stood firm. “Sir,” he said, “it is impossible. Lord Herbert decided it, and the House of Commons voted it.”[2] In the end, the Horse Guards and the War Office accepted the inevitable with a good grace; the order was given for the building to proceed, and Miss Nightingale's suggestion was adopted that it should be christened “The Herbert Hospital.”

Lord de Grey was also influential in securing a redefinition of Captain Galton's duties at the War Office. Lady Herbert told Lord de Grey that this was one of the last official matters on which she had heard her husband speak. Miss Nightingale again supplied the details, and to her ally was committed responsibility (under the Secretary of State) for new barrack works. On some other questions Miss Nightingale had the bitterness of seeing projects abandoned which she and Lord Herbert had almost matured. “It is really melancholy now,” wrote Captain Galton to her (Aug. 19), “to see the attempts made on all hands to pull down all that Sidney Herbert laboured to build up.” She recounted some of the disappointments in a letter to Harriet Martineau, and that lady, whose genuine sympathy in the cause was perhaps heightened by a journalist's scent for “copy,” was eager to go on the war-path. “No harm can come,” she wrote to Miss Nightingale (Oct. 4), “of an attempt to shame the Horse Guards. I have consulted my editor [of the Daily News], and if I can obtain a sufficiency of clear facts, I will gladly harass the Commander-in-Chief as he was never harassed before—that is, I will write a leader against him every Saturday for as many weeks as there are heads of accusation against him and his Department. We don't want to mince matters.” Miss Nightingale was to supply the powder and shot; Miss Martineau was to fire the guns. The partnership was declined by Miss Nightingale. The reason she gave was that she was no longer in the way of[7] obtaining much inside information. But she doubtless had other reasons. There were things which she had just managed to carry through. There were other possibilities of usefulness before her. She was playing a difficult game. She did not think that her hand would be strengthened by newspaper polemics, for the form of which she would not be responsible, but the information in which would be traced back to her. Among the points which she had just managed to score was the appointment of the Commission already mentioned,[3] for extending the Barracks Inquiry to the Mediterranean stations. Headquarters tried to stop it. “And I defeated them,” she had told Miss Martineau (Sept. 24), “by a trick which they were too stupid to find out.” Her papers do not disclose the nature of the “trick” by which this excellent piece of work was carried through.

And there was another thing which she did in order to forward Sidney Herbert's work, though in a field outside that of their collaboration: she wrote a stirring letter (Oct. 8) on the Volunteer Movement, which he had organized in 1859. It brought her several “offers,” as we have heard already[4]; and, displayed in large print on a card, must have attracted many recruits. She wrote it as one who had experience of war and its lessons; as one, too, who had worked for the Army, “seven years this very month, without the intermission of one single waking hour.” She made eloquent appeal to the patriotic spirit of the British people; and she included this piece of personal feeling: “On the saddest night of all my life, two months ago, when my dear chief Sidney Herbert lay dying, and I knew that with him died much of the welfare of the British Army—he was, too, so proud, so justly proud, of his Volunteers—on that night I lay listening to the bands of the Volunteers as they came marching in successively—it had been a review-day—and I said to myself, ‘The nation can never go back which is capable of such a movement as this; not the spirit of an hour; these are men who have all something to give up; all men whose time is valuable for money, which is not their god, as other nations say of us.’” I do not know if the name[8] of Florence Nightingale be still—as it ought to be—a name of power with the people. If it is, then her letter of 1861 might well be reprinted in connection with recruiting for the Territorial Force. She laid stress upon the voluntary spirit, as opposed to compulsion. But she laid stress also on the supreme importance of efficient training: “Garibaldi's Volunteers did excellently in guerilla movements; they failed before a fourth-rate regular army.”


Presently some old work in a new form came in Miss Nightingale's way. She had returned to London in November, chiefly in order to be on the spot for consultation and suggestion in connection with the Memorial to Sidney Herbert. It was her suggestion, for one thing, that the Memorial should include a Prize Medal at the Army Medical School. For this sojourn in London, Sir Harry Verney lent his house in South Street[5] to Miss Nightingale. The American Civil War now kept her busy. “Did I tell you,” she wrote to Dr. Farr (Oct. 8), “that I had forwarded to the War Secretary at Washington, upon application, all our War Office Forms and Reports, statistical and other, taking the occasion to tell them that, as the U.S. had adopted our Registrar-General's nomenclature, it would be easier for them to adopt our Army Statistics Forms. It appears that they, the Northern States, are quite puzzled by their own want of any Army organization. I also took occasion to tell them of our Chinese success in reducing the Army mortality to one-tenth of what it was, and the Constantly Sick to one-seventh of what they were during the first winter of the Crimean War, due to my dear master.” When the Civil War broke out, Miss Nightingale's example in the Crimea had produced an immediate effect. A “Woman's Central Association of Relief” was formed in New York. In co-operation with other bodies they petitioned the Secretary of War to appoint a Sanitary Commission, and after some delay this was done. Camps were inspected; female[9] nurses were sent to the hospitals; contrivances for improved cooking were supplied, and in short, much of Miss Nightingale's Crimean work was reproduced.[6] Presently she became more directly concerned. At the end of the year (1861) England was on the verge of being embroiled in the conflict, and, whilst the agitation over the Trent affair was at its height, the British Government decided to send reinforcements to Canada. Lord de Grey was charged with many of the preparations. He asked Miss Nightingale (Dec. 3) if he might consult her personally “as to sanitary arrangements generally.” He wished to profit by her experience and judgment in relation to transports, hospitals, clothing of the troops, supplies, comforts for the sick, and generally upon “the defects and dangers to be feared,” and how best to prevent them. He also asked for the names of suitable men for the position of Principal Medical Officer, and he consulted her again before making the appointment. Without a moment's loss of time, she set to work in conjunction with Dr. Sutherland, and sent in her suggestions. The draft instructions to the officers in charge of the expedition were sent to her on December 8. On December 10 Lord de Grey wrote: “I have got all your suggestions inserted in the Instructions, and am greatly obliged to you for them.” “We are shipping off the Expedition to Canada as fast as we can,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (Dec. 13). “I have been working just as I did in the times of Sidney Herbert. Alas! he left no organization, my dear master! But the Horse Guards were so terrified at the idea of the national indignation if they lost another army, that they have consented[10] to everything.” A few days later another draft of instructions was sent to her through Captain Galton. “We have gone over your draft very carefully,” she wrote (Dec. 18), “and find that although it includes almost everything necessary, it does not define with sufficient precision the manner in which the meat is to get from the Commissariat into the soldier's kettle, or the clothing from the Army Medical General store on to the soldier's back. You must define all this. Otherwise you will have men, as you had in the Crimea, shirking the responsibility.” Memoranda among Miss Nightingale's papers show the grasp of detail with which she worked out the problems. Her mind envisaged the scene of operations. She calculated the distances which might have to be covered by sledges; she counted the relays and depots; she compared the relative weights and warming capacities of blankets and buffalo robes. A great Commander was lost to her country when Florence Nightingale was born a woman. Her suggestions in the case of the Canadian reinforcements were happily not put to the test of war. The Trent affair was smoothed over, largely, as is now well known, owing to the moderating counsels of the Prince Consort. It was his last service to his adopted country. Miss Nightingale felt his death to be a national loss. “He neither liked,” she said of him, “nor was liked. But what he has done for our country no one knows.”


Miss Nightingale's work in connection with the Canadian expedition was done in the midst of a personal sorrow of her own, second only in poignancy, if second at all, to that caused by the death of Sidney Herbert. This was the death of Arthur Hugh Clough. He had broken down in health and been ordered abroad in April 1861, and she had urged him to go. He died, however, at Florence on November 12. They had been close friends since her return to England from the Crimea. His sweetness of disposition, his humour, his lofty moral feeling, alike attracted her. He on his side had deep admiration for her, and he devoted such strength—alas! but little—as remained to him from work in the[11] Privy Council Office to her service. He fetched and carried for her. He made arrangements for her journeys, as we have heard, and escorted her. He saw her printers, he corrected her proofs. He became, at a modest salary, secretary to the Nightingale Fund. It was poor work to set a poet to, but he did it with cheerful modesty. He was intent, he told Miss Nightingale, upon “doing plain work”; he had “studied and taught,” he said, “too much for a man's own moral good.” In 1860 his health began to fail. Miss Nightingale was sometimes a little impatient. His loyalty and zeal she could never have doubted; but she was inclined to think him lacking in initiative and energy. She was always inclined to drive willing horses a little hardly. In the case of Clough, as in that of Sidney Herbert, she sometimes attributed to infirmity of will what was in fact due to infirmity of body. And in each case her grief, when the end came, was not free, I think, from some element of self-reproach. “I have always felt,” she had written to her uncle (Dec. 7, 1860), “that I have been a great drag on Arthur's health and spirits, a much greater one than I should have chosen to be, if I had not promised him to die sooner.” “She saw my father,” wrote her cousin Beatrice to Mr. Nightingale (Dec. 4), “to speak only of Arthur, as only she can speak. She was quite natural, very affectionate, very, very much moved.” But in her state of loneliness and nervous exhaustion her feeling for lost friends was sometimes morbid. She said that for months after the death of Sidney Herbert, and again after that of Clough, she could not bear to open a newspaper for dread of seeing some mention of a beloved name. Some years later she was sent a book by Mrs. Clough. “I like very much,” she replied (Nov. 13, 1865)—“how much I cannot say—to receive that book from you. But it would be impossible to me to read it or look at it, not from want of time or strength, but from too much of both spent on his memory, from thinking, not too little, but too much on him. But I don't say this for others. I believe it is a morbid peculiarity of long illness, of the loss of power of resistance to morbid thoughts. I cannot bear to see a portrait of those who are gone.” The depth of her grief at the death of Mr. Clough is[12] expressed or reflected in letters which she wrote or received at the time:—

(Benjamin Jowett to Miss Nightingale.) Balliol, Nov. 19 [1861]. Thank you for writing to me. I am very much grieved at the tidings which your letter brought me. I agree entirely in your estimate of our dear friend's character. It was in 1836 (the anniversary is next week) that I first saw him when he was elected to the Balliol Scholarship. No one who only knew him in later life would imagine what a noble, striking-looking youth he was before he got worried with false views of religion and the world. I never met with any one who was more thoroughly high-minded: I believe he acted all through life simply from the feeling of what was right. He certainly had great genius, but some want of will or some want of harmony with things around him prevented his creating anything worthy of himself. I am glad he was married: life was dark to him, and his wife and children made him as happy as he was capable of being made. He was naturally very religious, and I think that he never recovered the rude shock which his religion received during his first years at Oxford. He did not see and yet he believed in the great belief of all—to do rightly. Did I quote to you ever an expression which Neander used to me of Blanco White: einer Christ mehr in Unbewusstseyn als in Bewusstseyn? It grieves me that you should have lost so invaluable a friend. No earthly trial can be greater than to pursue without friends the work that you began with them. And yet it is the more needed because it rests on one only. If there be any way in this world to be like Christ it must be by pursuing in solitude and illness, without the support of sympathy or public opinion, works for the good of mankind. I hope you will sometimes let me hear from you. Let me assure you that I shall never cease to take an interest in your objects and writings.—Ever yours sincerely, B. Jowett.

(Miss Nightingale to Sir John McNeill.) South Street, Nov. 18.… He was a man of rare mind and temper. The more so because he would gladly do “plain work.” To me, seeing the blundering harasses which were the uses to which we put him, he seemed like a race-horse harnessed to a coal truck. This not because he did “plain work” and did it so well. For the best of us can be put to no better use than that. He helped me immensely, though not officially, by his sound judgment and constant sympathy. “Oh, Jonathan, my brother Jonathan, my love to thee was very great, passing the love of woman.” Now, not one man remains (that I can call a man) of all those whom these five years I have worked with. But, as you say, “we are all dying.”

(Sir John McNeill to Miss Nightingale.) Edinburgh,[13] November 19. I should find it difficult to tell you how much your letter has distressed me. I do not know that I have ever cared so much for any man of whom I had seen so little as I did for Clough. Perhaps it may not have been all on his own account, for to know that he was near you was a comfort, but if he had not been altogether estimable in head and heart this mixed feeling could not have arisen. His death leaves you dreadfully alone in the midst of your work, but that work is your life and you can do it alone. There is no feeling more sustaining than that of being alone—at least I have ever found it so. To mount my horse and ride over the desert alone with the sky closing the circle in which my horse and I were the only living things, I have always found intensely elating. To work out views in which no one helped me has all my life been to me a source of vitality and strength. So I doubt not it will be to you, for you have a strength and a power for good to which I never could pretend. It is a small matter to die a few days sooner than usual. It is a great matter to work while it is day, and so to husband one's power as to make the most of the days that are given us. This you will do. Herbert and Clough and many more may fall around you, but you are destined to do a great work and you cannot die till it is substantially, if not apparently, done. You are leaving your impress on the age in which you live, and the print of your foot will be traced by generations yet unborn. Go on—to you the accidents of mortality ought to be as the falling of the leaves in autumn. Ever respectfully and sincerely yours, John McNeill.

Miss Nightingale was able, as her friends predicted, to pursue in hours of gloom the tasks which in hours of insight she had willed; and to continue, without the same sympathy from close friends as before, the kind of work which she had once done with Sidney Herbert's co-operation or with Clough's advice. But she yearned for sympathy none the less; in a noble, though an exacting, way. For by “sympathy” she understood not such feeling as would be expressed merely in affectionate behaviour or personal consideration for herself, but a fellow-feeling for her objects expressed in readiness to follow her in serving them with something of her own practical devotion. She did not think of herself apart from her mission.

(Miss Nightingale to Madame Mohl.) 32 South Street, London, Dec. 13 [1861]. I have read half your book thro' [Madame Récamier], and am immensely charmed by it. But[14] some things I disagree with and more I do not understand. This does not apply to the characters, but to your conclusions, e.g. you say “women are more sympathetic than men.” Now if I were to write a book out of my experience, I should begin Women have no sympathy. Yours is the tradition. Mine is the conviction of experience. I have never found one woman who has altered her life by one iota for me or my opinions. Now look at my experience of men. A statesman, past middle age, absorbed in politics for a quarter of a century, out of sympathy with me, remodels his whole life and policy—learns a science the driest, the most technical, the most difficult, that of administration, as far as it concerns the lives of men,—not, as I learnt it, in the field from stirring experience, but by writing dry regulations in a London room by my sofa with me. This is what I call real sympathy. Another (Alexander, whom I made Director-General) does very nearly the same thing. He is dead too. Clough, a poet born if ever there was one, takes to nursing-administration in the same way, for me. I only mention three whose whole lives were remodelled by sympathy for me. But I could mention very many others—Farr, McNeill, Tulloch, Storks, Martin, who in a lesser degree have altered their work by my opinions. And, the most wonderful of all, a man born without a soul, like Undine—all these elderly men.

Now just look at the degree in which women have sympathy—as far as my experience is concerned. And my experience of women is almost as large as Europe. And it is so intimate too. I have lived and slept in the same bed with English Countesses and Prussian Bäuerinnen. No Roman Catholic Supérieure has ever had charge of women of the different creeds that I have had. No woman has excited “passions” among women more than I have. Yet I leave no school behind me. My doctrines have taken no hold among women. Not one of my Crimean following learnt anything from me, or gave herself for one moment after she came home to carry out the lesson of that war or of those hospitals.… No woman that I know has ever appris à apprendre. And I attribute this to want of sympathy. You say somewhere that women have no attention. Yes. And I attribute this to want of sympathy. Nothing makes me so impatient as people complaining of their want of memory. How can you remember what you have never heard?… It makes me mad, the Women's Rights talk about “the want of a field” for them—when I know that I would gladly give £500 a year for a Woman Secretary. And two English Lady Superintendents have told me the same thing. And we can't get one.… They don't know the names of the Cabinet Ministers. They don't know the offices at the Horse Guards. They don't know who[15] of the men of the day is dead and who is alive. They don't know which of the Churches has Bishops and which not. Now I'm sure I did not know these things. When I went to the Crimea I did not know a Colonel from a Corporal. But there are such things as Army Lists and Almanacs. Yet I never could find a woman who, out of sympathy, would consult one—for my work. The only woman I ever influenced by sympathy was one of those Lady Superintendents I have named. Yet she is like me, overwhelmed with her own business.… In one sense, I do believe I am “like a man,” as Parthe says. But how? In having sympathy. I am sure I have nothing else. I am sure I have no genius. I am sure that my contemporaries, Parthe, Hilary, Marianne, Lady Dunsany, were all cleverer than I was, and several of them more unselfish. But not one had a bit of sympathy. Now Sidney Herbert's wife just did the Secretary's work for her husband (which I have had to do without) out of pure sympathy. She did not understand his policy. Yet she could write his letters for him “like a man.” I should think Mme Récamier was another specimen of pure sympathy.… Women crave for being loved, not for loving. They scream out at you for sympathy all day long, they are incapable of giving any in return, for they cannot remember your affairs long enough to do so.… They cannot state a fact accurately to another, nor can that other attend to it accurately enough for it to become information. Now is not all this the result of want of sympathy?…

You say of Mme Récamier that her existence was “empty but brilliant.” And you attribute it to want of family. Oh, dear friend, don't give in to that sort of tradition. People often say to me, You don't know what a wife and mother feels. No, I say, I don't and I'm very glad I don't. And they don't know what I feel.… I am sick with indignation at what wives and mothers will do of the most egregious selfishness. And people call it all maternal or conjugal affection, and think it pretty to say so. No, no, let each person tell the truth from his own experience. Ezekiel went running about naked, “for a sign.” I can't run about naked because it is not the custom of the country. But I would mount three widows' caps on my head, “for a sign.” And I would cry, This is for Sidney Herbert, This is for Arthur Clough, and This, the biggest widow's cap of all, is for the loss of all sympathy on the part of my dearest and nearest.[7]

I cannot understand how Mme Récamier could give “advice[16] and sympathy” to such opposite people as, e.g. Mme Salvage and Chateaubriand. Neither can I understand how she could give “support” without recommending a distinct line of policy,—by merely keeping up the tone to a high one. It is as if I had said to Sidney Herbert, Be a statesman, be a statesman—instead of indicating to him a definite course of statesmanship to follow. Also I am sure I never could have given “advice and sympathy” to Gladstone and S. Herbert—men pursuing opposite lines of policy. Also I am sure I never could have been the friend and adviser of Sidney Herbert, of Alexander, and of others, by simply keeping up the tone of general conversation on promiscuous matters. We debated and settled measures together. That is the way we did it. Adieu, dear friend.… I have had two consultations. They say that all this worry has brought on congestion of the spine which leads straight to paralysis.…

(Miss Nightingale to her Mother.) 9 Chesterfield St., W., March 7 [1862]. Dearest Mother—So far from your letters being a “bore,” you are the only person who tells me any news. I have never been able to get over the morbid feeling at seeing my lost two's names in the paper, so that I see no paper. I did not know of the deaths you mention.… But they and others do not know how much they are spared by having no bitterness mingled with their grief. Such unspeakable bitterness has been connected with each one of my losses—far, far greater than the grief.… Sometimes I wonder that I should be so impatient for death. Had I only to stand and wait, I think it would be nothing, though the pain is so great that I wonder how anybody can dread an operation.… I think what I have felt most (during my last three months of extreme weakness) is the not having one single person to give me one inspiring word or even one correct fact. I am glad to end a day which never can come back, gladder to end a night, gladdest to end a month. I have felt this much more in setting up (for the first time in my life) a fashionable old maid's house in a fashionable quarter (tho' grateful to Papa's liberality for enabling me to do so), because it is, as it were, deciding upon a new and independent course in my broken old age.… Thank you very much for the weekly box. I could not help sending the game, chicken, vegetables and flowers to King's College Hospital. I never see the spring without thinking of my Clough. He used to tell me how the leaves were coming out—always remembering that, without his[17] eyes, I should never see the spring again. Thank God! my lost two are in brighter springs than ours. Poor Mrs. Herbert told me that her chief comfort was in a little Chinese dog of his, which he was not very fond of either (he always said he liked Christians better than beasts), but which used to come and kiss her eyelids and lick the tears from her cheeks. I remember thinking this childish. But now I don't. My cat does just the same to me. Dumb beasts observe you so much more than talking beings; and know so much better what you are thinking of.… Ever, dear Mama, your loving child, F.

At the turn of the year, 1861–62, Miss Nightingale had been very ill; and two physicians, Dr. Williams and Dr. Sutherland, were in daily attendance. Happily, however, the case was by no means so serious as she had reported to Madame Mohl, and in 1862 she was able to devote unremitting labour to one of the heaviest, and most useful, pieces of work which she ever did.



(1862, 1863)

In this case you are doing much more than providing for the health of the Troops; for, to be effectual, the improvement must extend to the civil population, and thus another great element of Civilization will be introduced.—Sir Charles Trevelyan (Letter to Florence Nightingale, Aug. 11, 1862).

It is a commonplace that the British Empire in India was won and is held by British arms. And this, though not the whole truth of the tenure by which the Empire is held, is true. What is also true, but less generally known, is that there have been heavier sacrifices than those demanded in war and rendered glorious by British valour. The greater part of the British lives that were shed in India were lost, not in battle, but by disease. Burke said of British rule in India in his time: “England has built no bridges, made no high roads, cut no navigations. Were we driven out of India this day, nothing would remain to tell that it had been possessed, during the inglorious period of our dominion, by anything better than the ourang-outang or the tiger.”[8] That was no longer true at the time with which we are here concerned. The era had begun in which it has been a song of the English to “drive the road and bridge the ford.” But the land was not yet “cleared of evil.” The British soldier was still sent out to India to die ingloriously by the neglect of sanitary laws.

In 1859 it was found that the average annual death-rate among the British soldiers in India since the year 1817 had[19] been 69 per 1000. To-day it is little over 5 per 1000. The changes in barracks and military sanitation in India, which are primarily accountable for this great saving of life, are directly traceable to the recommendations of the Royal Commission which was appointed by Lord Stanley in 1859, and which reported in 1863. Thus much the reader may find stated in any trustworthy book of reference or other standard authority. What he will not find generally stated is that the appointment of the Royal Commission is directly traceable to Miss Nightingale, that by her the greater part of its Report was written, and that the suggestions for reform founded upon it were also her work. At an International Congress held in London in 1860 a French delegate, as already related, spoke of Florence Nightingale as “the Providence of the English Army.” She was no less the Providence of the Indian Army. To the British soldier in India, as at home, she was “a saviour.” In introducing this subject, we must go back a little in point of time, for the Indian work had begun a few years before the death of Sidney Herbert.

“I must tell you a secret,” wrote Miss Nightingale to Harriet Martineau in 1859 (May 19), “because I think it will please you. For eight long months I have been ‘importunate-widowing’ my ‘unjust judge,’ viz. Lord Stanley, to give us a Royal Sanitary Commission to do exactly the same thing for the Armies in India which the last did for the Army at home. We have just won it. The Queen has signed the Warrant. So it is safe. Mr. Sidney Herbert is Chairman of course. Drs. Sutherland, Martin, Farr, and Alexander, whose names will be known to you, and Sir R. Vivian and Sir P. Cautley, of the India Council, are on it.”

Miss Nightingale had made up her mind two years before to do this thing. The Indian Mutiny, which filled some minds only with thoughts of vengeance and repression against the native soldiers, filled hers rather with thoughts of pity and reform on behalf of the British soldiers. She had gone into the figures of mortality in the Indian army at the time when she was analysing those in the army at home. There was “murder” committed not only by the Sepoys.[20] It was murder also to doom British soldiers to death by neglect of sanitary precautions. At the end of her Notes on the Army (1857), she inserted a fly-leaf, which foreshadowed her Indian campaign:—

While the sheets were passing through the press, those lamentable occurrences took place in India which have led to an universal conviction that this vast Empire must henceforth be held by British troops. If we were to be led by past experience of the presumed effect of Indian climates on European constitutions, our country might almost despair of being able to supply men enough.… The British race has carried with it into those regions of the sun its habits, its customs, and its vices, without considering that under a low temperature man may do with impunity what under a higher one is death. Our vast Indian Empire consists of many zones, of many regions, of many climates. On the mere question of climate, it is surely within human possibility, even in the great majority of instances, so to arrange the stations, and so to connect them, by railroads and telegraphs, that the troops would hardly be required to occupy unhealthy districts. Even with regard to such districts the question arises to what extent the unhealthiness is inevitable, and to what extent it would be remediable.… As an illustration of the necessity of Government interference in this matter, it may be stated, on the very first authority, that, after a campaign perhaps one of the most arduous and successful on record, and when the smallness of the British force and the season of the year required every sanitary precaution to be taken for the preservation of the force, a certain earnest, energetic Officer appointed a sanitary inspector to attend to the cleansing of a captured city, and to the burial of some thousand dead bodies of men, horses, asses, bullocks, camels, and elephants, which were poisoning the air. The Bombay Government, to which the appointment was referred, “would not sanction it,” “because there was no precedent for it”! In future, it ought to be the duty of the Indian Government to require no precedents for such procedure. The observance of Sanitary laws should be as much part of the future régime of India as the holding of Military positions or as Civil government itself. It would be a noble beginning of the new order of things to use hygiene as the handmaid of civilization.

Everything that Miss Nightingale thus said should be done, was done; and to the doing of it, she supplied, first, the propelling force, and, then, much of the detailed direction.

First came the movement for getting the appointment of[21] a Royal Commission agreed to in principle. Miss Nightingale's reference to Lord Stanley as her “unjust judge” need not be taken too seriously. He was her very good friend, as we know;[9] and it was when he was transferred from the Colonial to the India Office (1858) that she felt her time to have come. And Lord Stanley agreed at once to her suggestion of appointing a Commission. It was when the consideration of the Commission was reached that the delay began. Who should approach Lord Stanley on the details? And how should it be done? Miss Nightingale and what I have called her cabinet of reformers were equally interested in the Sub-Commissions still sitting on Army Sanitation at home. Lord Stanley wanted Mr. Herbert to undertake the chairmanship of the India Commission. Should he accept it, at risk of diverting some of his attention from these other reforms? Miss Nightingale and her friends hit upon a plan, as she hoped, for killing two birds with one stone. It was intimated to Lord Stanley that Mr. Herbert would accept the chairmanship on condition that the pending reforms at home were hastened. I do not know if the Indian Secretary came to terms with the War Secretary in that sense; if he did, I fear that General Peel interpreted “haste” as festina lente. Anyhow, Mr. Herbert accepted the chairmanship, and then some months were spent in arranging the membership and the terms of reference. There were to be three sanitary experts, a statistician, and two members of the India Council. Of the two latter, one (Sir R. Vivian) was a friend of Miss Nightingale's uncle, Mr. Smith; and of Sir Proby Cautley she had heard good reports. The sanitarians—Drs. Sutherland, Martin, and Alexander—and Dr. Farr, the statistician, were all of her inner circle. At the last moment there was a fresh delay. The list was submitted for the royal approval, and Her Majesty required that “a Queen's officer of acknowledged experience in India” should be added to the Commission. Mr. Herbert asked Miss Nightingale to supply a suitable man, by which he meant a man whose acknowledged experience included some belief in sanitary science. She took great pains, and employed some wile in obtaining the best[22] opinions. She wrote, for one thing, to her uncle, telling him (May 19, 1859) to get at Sir John Lawrence, through his friend Sir R. Vivian, and ask for suggestions. “Vivian must be soaped,” she added, “so as not to let him think that we undervalue his opinion.” Sir John Lawrence did not, however, on this occasion prove very resourceful; Miss Nightingale sent in the name of an officer, Colonel E. H. Greathed, who had been commended to her through another channel, and he was duly added to the Commission. At an earlier stage she had thrown out the interesting suggestion that John Stuart Mill, lately retired from the East India House, should be asked to serve, but this did not meet with favour. “Our business,” wrote one of her circle, “is with spades and wheelbarrows,” and he doubted whether “Compte” could be put to such purposes. Miss Nightingale always thought that this ally of hers, though invaluable in many ways, was a little wanting in soul. So then the Commission was appointed. The Warrant was issued on May 31, 1859. The Commission reported on May 19, 1863. There were some changes in its personnel from death and other causes. On the overthrow of the Derby Government, Mr. Herbert went to the War Office, and he presently resigned the chairmanship. Lord Stanley succeeded him. The members of the Commission on whom both Mr. Herbert and Lord Stanley most relied were Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Farr, and a third, who was yet not a member—Miss Nightingale. And among these three the lion's share of the work was done by her.


She had not waited for the actual appointment of the Commission to begin collecting, preparing, and digesting evidence for it. Her first concern was to draft a circular of inquiry which should be sent to all the Stations in India. It lacked nothing, as will be supposed, in requiring fulness of statistical detail. When she had prepared it, she sent it in proof to Sir John McNeill for his suggestions, asking him also (May 9, 1859) “kindly to give an opinion as to the general direction which the Enquiry should take.” In cases where she was personally acquainted with Governors[23] or high military or medical officers in India, she wrote soliciting their good offices. Sir Charles Trevelyan, then Governor of Madras, promised cordial co-operation. Then she and Dr. Farr set to work on such statistical records as were obtainable from the East India House. There is a bundle of correspondence amongst her Papers relating to the difficulties she encountered, and surmounted, in obtaining official sanction for clerical work in this regard. Dr. Farr's appetite for statistics was as insatiable as hers, and she had taken means to lay in ample supplies:—

(Miss Nightingale to Dr. Farr.) Highgate, June 2, [1859]. Your Commission was gazetted on May 31 and Mr. Herbert is in town. As it will be necessary to obtain the Statistics of Sickness, Mortality, and Invaliding of the Indian Army from the Medical Boards there, would not some of the proposed forms for the Army Medical Dep. be better than any other, filled up for each station with the Diseases annually for a period say of 10 years? Or would it be necessary to provide others? We must, of course, have the most minute Statistics—both for Soldiers and Officers in the Queen's, Company's and native troops. And these we should get by this method for 10 years. I suppose the Medical Boards have the Presidency Medical Book Records. Would it be necessary to get the Returns for each Corps separately? Would it not be important to get the ages—age and time of service at Death or Invaliding?

Hampstead, Dec. 6 [1859]. In consequence of your intemperate desire to have the Indian Medical Service Regulations, we have applied at the Great House for copies. And the answer is that they have only one Office copy, and if we want any we must send to India. Knowing their weakness, we had (in our “Queries”) previously sent to two hundred Stations in India for copies of all “Regulations,” and we hope the result will satisfy your literary appetite.

Dr. Farr, then, was being fed with statistics. Officials in India were being kept busy with forms to be filled up, and with the preparation of other written evidence. In November 1859 the Commission began taking oral evidence in London, but this was a comparatively minor part of its labours, and during 1860 no public sittings were held. They were resumed in 1861. Lord Stanley had then succeeded Mr. Herbert in the chair, but Miss Nightingale's grip upon the Commission was not relaxed. Two of the Commissioners,[24] Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Farr, were in close touch with her. The former was with her almost every day; the latter asked her to send him questions which he should put to witnesses. As in the case of the former Royal Commission, so now Miss Nightingale saw some of the witnesses before they gave their evidence. Among her visitors in this sort was Sir John Lawrence, as already mentioned, and a friendship began which had important consequences. Seeing that everything was thus in good train, Miss Nightingale was able during the years 1859–60–61 to devote her main work to those other matters with which we have been concerned in preceding Parts. In 1862, her main interest was in the Indian Commission, and the amount of work which she gave to it during 1862–1863 was enormous.

Her manner of life during these years was similar to that described in a previous chapter. Work for the Commission required her constant attendance in London or within easy distance of it. In 1862 she lived either in a hotel (Peary's, 31 Dover Street), a hired house (9 Chesterfield Street), or Sir Harry Verney's house in South Street. During August and September she took a house in Oak Hill Park, Hampstead. In 1863 she divided her time between Hampstead, hired houses in Cleveland Row, and Sir Harry Verney's. Her affectionate friend, Mrs. Sutherland, did all the house-hunting for her. Cleveland Row was selected for its nearness to the War Office; and the convenience of the site so far constrained Dr. Sutherland's sanitary conscience that he declared Cleveland Row to be “the airiest place in London.”


Few of my readers have come to close quarters, I suppose, with the Indian Sanitary Commission's Report. It is a very formidable thing, consisting of two bulky volumes, containing respectively 1069 and 959 pages—in all 2028 pages, mostly in small print. Of this mountainous mass, the greater part bears in one way or another the impress of Miss Nightingale. It was she, in the first place, as already stated, who drafted the questions which were sent to every military station in India. The replies, signed in each case[25] by the commanding officer, the engineer officer, and the medical officer, occupy the whole of the second volume. The replies, as they came in from India, were sent to her to analyse. There were van-loads of them, she said, which cost her £4:10s. to move whenever she changed houses. With the analysis made by her and Dr. Sutherland, these replies anticipated, as she afterwards noted,[10] the Statistical Survey of India which Lord Mayo ordered ten years later. It was said at the time that such a complete picture of life in India, both British and native, was contained in no other book in existence. In October 1861 she was formally requested by the Commission to submit remarks on these Stational Reports. She had completed the task by August 1862. The “Observations by Miss Nightingale,” which occupy twenty-three pages of the Report, are among the most remarkable of her Works, and in their results among the most beneficent. They are also extremely readable; and to make them more instructive, she included a number of woodcuts illustrating, not only Indian hospitals and barracks, but native customs in connection with water-supply and drainage.[11] The Treasury—horrified perhaps at the idea of popularizing a Blue-book—made some demur to the cost, but Miss Nightingale was allowed to solve the difficulty by paying for the printing, as well as for the illustrations, out of her private purse.

She made full use of the opening which the niggardliness of the Treasury gave her. She hurried the printers, and had a large number of her “Observations” struck off for private use. “I have looked once more,” wrote Lord Stanley (Nov. 21), “through your Remarks, and like them better the oftener I read them. The style alone (apart from the authority which your name carries with it) will ensure their being studied by many who know nothing of the subject. They will admirably relieve the dryness of our official Report. I hope every Indian and English newspaper will reprint them, in extracts at least. They must be circulated with our Report, separately from the[26] too voluminous mass of evidence which we can't help appending. You have added one more to your many and invaluable services in the cause.” “Miss Nightingale's Paper,” wrote Dr. Farr to Dr. Sutherland (Dec. 1), “is a masterpiece, in her best style; and will rile the enemy very considerable—all for his good, poor creature.”[12] But it was not only among the Commissioners that she circulated her Paper. She sent it confidentially to many of her influential friends. “The picture is terrible,” wrote Sir John McNeill (Aug. 9), “but it is all true. There is no one statement from beginning to end that I feel disposed to question, and there are many which my own observation and experience enable me to confirm.” A copy went to John Stuart Mill, who was much pleased with the “Observations,” and was certain that “the publication of them would do vast good.” Miss Nightingale had a copy bound for the Queen, and sent it—as also a copy of her Paper on Sidney Herbert—through Sir James Clark, who marked passages for the Queen to read. Her Majesty, he found from conversation, had not confined her reading to those passages. The Queen in return sent a copy of her Collection of Prince Albert's Speeches. “The Queen,” wrote Miss Nightingale to M. Mohl (Feb. 14, 1863), “has sent me her book with such a touching inscription. She always reminds me of the Greek chorus with her hands clasped above her head wailing out her irrepressible despair.”[13] Miss Nightingale sent her “Observations” also to Sir John Lawrence, who studied them closely, and corresponded with her on the subject. Another copy went to Sir Charles Trevelyan.[14] “Having,” he wrote (Oct. 31, 1862), “undertaken the duties of Financial Member of the Council of India, I may now be able to give some help in carrying the recommendations of your Commission into practical effect. You must not expect from me as much as Sidney Herbert did, for my power will not be the same. The Governor-General and the local Governors will alone be in that position. But I shall do what I can. Perhaps you will send me a copy[27] of your Abstract of the Evidence, and direct my attention to the points of more immediate importance. I shall be obliged for any hints.” Miss Nightingale responded by sending him papers enough to occupy all his time on the voyage. She seems at this time to have entertained some hope that her health would permit her, when the Report was out, to visit India in person; for one of Sir Charles's letters refers to such a visit, and expresses the pleasure which it would give to Lady Trevelyan and himself to receive her as their guest, and in every way to assist her mission. But this was not to be. Her knowledge of India and Indian questions was already great, and presently it became so minute as to encourage a legend that she herself had once been there.[15] But she never saw the country. It is not always either the “life-long resident,” or, on the other hand, “Padgett, M.P.,” who is better qualified than the student to perceive and serve a country's need.

Miss Nightingale's “Observations” form a synopsis of the whole subject. Giving chapter and verse from the Stational reports for each of her statements, she shows, first, that the prevailing diseases were camp diseases such as she had seen in the Crimean War—largely due to the selection of unsuitable sites. Among the causes were Bad Water, Bad Drainage, Filthy Bazaars, Want of Ventilation, and Surface Overcrowding in barrack-huts and sick-wards. Her remarks under these several heads are often characteristically racy. “Where tests have been used, the composition of the water reads like a very intricate prescription, containing nearly all the chlorides, sulphates, nitrates, and carbonates in the pharmacopoeia, besides silica and quantities of animal and vegetable matter, which the reports apparently consider nutritive.” “If the facilities for washing were as great as those for drink, our Indian army would be the cleanest body of men in the world.” “There is no drainage, in any sense in which we understand the word. The reports speak of cesspits as if they were dressingrooms.”[28] “Except where the two Lawrences have been—there one can always recognize their traces—the bazaars are simply in the first savage stage of social savage life.” Under the head of “Overcrowding,” she brings together various instances with figures and woodcuts; she quotes one report which said that the men (300 men per room!) “are generally accommodated in the barrack without inconvenient overcrowding,” and she asks, “What is convenient overcrowding?” “At some stations the floors are of earth, varnished over periodically with cow-dung: a practice borrowed from the natives. Like Mahomet and the mountain, if men won't go to the dunghill, the dunghill, it appears, comes to them.” Her next section, on “Intemperance,” is scathing. In India, as at home,[16] it was a current opinion of the time that the soldier is by nature a drunken animal; the only question seemed to be as to how he had better get drunk. At one station, though the men were reported as “mostly temperate,” she found that on a ten years' average one man in three was admitted into hospital directly from drink. “The men are killed by liver disease on canteen spirits to save them from being killed by liver disease on bazaar spirits. May there not be some middle course whereby the men may be killed by neither?” Under “Diet,” she notes the absurdity of a uniform ration, in amount and quality, in all seasons and climates; and ventures to doubt whether cesspits are desirable adjuncts of kitchens. Her next head is “Want of Occupation and Exercise”—a fruitful source of vice and disease. It is a most interesting chapter, full of valuable hints and illustrated by an amusing drawing, sent to her by Colonel Young, of “Daily Means of Occupation and Amusement passim.” Here, as in much else of Miss Nightingale's work, she collected all the better opinions; she picked out from the returns before her any hopeful experiments; enlarged upon them, and drove the moral home. Her chapter on “Indian Hospitals” is naturally very full and detailed. She discusses the prevalent structural defects; suggests improvements in the internal arrangements; and notes that there were “neither trained orderlies nor female nurses.” On the subject of “Hill Stations,”[29] Miss Nightingale's “Observations” show a fear lest too much reliance should be placed upon their superior salubrity. She quotes instances of terrible sanitary defects on hill stations, and enforces the moral that “the salvation of the Indian army must be brought about by sanitary measures everywhere.” After discussing “Native Towns,” “Soldiers' Wives,” and “Statistics,” Miss Nightingale insisted generally on the importance of instituting a proper system of sanitary service in India. Henceforth, to the end almost of her long life, she regarded herself, and in large measure was able to act, as a sanitary servant to the army and peoples of India.

Miss Nightingale's “Observations” were only part of her share in the labours of the Commission. They were followed in the Report by an Abstract, arranged under Presidencies, of the Returns on which the “Observations” were founded. This analysis, occupying nearly a hundred pages, was drawn up, as already stated, by Miss Nightingale and Dr. Sutherland. The manuscript of it, preserved amongst her papers, is mainly in her handwriting. And she did much more, as will presently be related.


When the Commission of the Army in India was nearing the end of its labours, an event happened which seemed to Miss Nightingale of crucial importance. On April 14, 1863, she heard from Sir Harry Verney that Sir George Lewis, the Secretary for War, had died suddenly on the previous day. Sir Harry added that at the Service Clubs, Lord de Grey was talked of as a probable successor, but that Lord Panmure's name was also mentioned. From another and a better-informed source she heard that Lord de Grey hoped to get the appointment, but that there were believed to be two difficulties in the way. The Queen might object to the War Office being given to a Minister who had not yet been in the Cabinet, and pressure might be put upon Lord Palmerston from other quarters not to appoint a Peer. Should either or both of these factors prevail, Mr. Cardwell was believed to be the most probable successor. Now it seemed to Miss Nightingale all-important that, when the[30] Report on the health of the army in India came out, the Secretary of State for War should be a proved sanitarian. She did not want to have once more to “bully the Bison,” and she did not know much of Mr. Cardwell. She did know Lord de Grey, and she knew him as a sympathiser in her cause. Without a moment's delay she set herself to bring to bear in his favour such influence as she might possess, either on her own account or as the public legatee, as it were, of Sidney Herbert. A telegram written en clair and preserved by the recipient shows how a good press was secured for Lord de Grey's appointment:—

From Florence Nightingale to Harriet Martineau.—Agitate, agitate, for Lord de Grey to succeed Sir George Lewis.

The world was duly informed next day (April 17) through the columns of the Daily News that public opinion expected the appointment of Lord de Grey. But Miss Nightingale took other measures. She wrote a letter to Lord Palmerston, and to his principal colleague, Mr. Gladstone, she sent a copy of it. Mr. Gladstone, in reply, did not doubt that Lord Palmerston had a very high opinion of Lord de Grey, but added on his own part that he saw great difficulty in not having the head of the War Office, with its vast expenditure, in the House of Commons. The letter to Lord Palmerston, meanwhile, was delivered by a special messenger, who had been strictly charged to make sure that the Minister read it at once. The sequel, describing a somewhat curious scene, had better be given in Sir Harry Verney's own words:—

Cleveland Row, Ap. 15 [2.30]. From Hampstead I returned to South Street, and found your letter. Thence to Cambridge House. Lord Palmerston was so good as to admit me. I said that I had seen you this morning, and that by your desire I requested him to allow me to read a letter to him from you. He said, “Certainly”; and I read it to him rather slowly. Having read it, I said that you had mentioned this morning that within a fortnight of Lord Herbert's death, he had said to you more than once that he hoped Lord de Grey might be his successor. I then added, “I have not to request any reply or observations on Miss Nightingale's letter. I have only to thank you for your kindness in allowing me to read it.” He took the[31] letter and put it in his pocket. He then asked how you are, and where, and I told him. There is a Cabinet at 5.30 this afternoon. I think that if Gladstone has your note before going to it, it might be well.

She had anticipated Sir Harry's suggestion, as we have seen. The Prime Minister put her letter into his pocket, but it did not stay there. He took it with him to Windsor and read it to the Queen. On April 22 it was announced that Her Majesty had been pleased to approve the appointment of Lord de Grey as Secretary of State for War.


Miss Nightingale thus felt assured that when the Indian Report came out she would have a sympathetic chief at the War Office, and she turned with the greater zest to the next stage in her labours; namely, the preparation of the Report by the Commissioners. The manuscript of the first page or two (explaining the delay in issuing the Report and the procedure of the Commission) is in Lord Stanley's handwriting (preserved among Miss Nightingale's papers). He entrusted the preparation of the first draft of the rest of the Report, for statistics to Dr. Farr, and for the rest to Miss Nightingale and Dr. Sutherland. She had written a first draft of the greater part of her sections of the Report as early as April 1862. By August it was in type and corrected by Lord Stanley, who “pledged himself to carry it through the Commission next month.”[17] But Dr. Farr's section was not so far advanced, and there were other delays at which Miss Nightingale chafed not a little. In May 1863 the last stage was reached. “I have done and shall do all in my power,” Lord Stanley wrote to her (July 10), “to make it public that to Dr. Sutherland and you we mainly owe it that the Report has assumed its present shape.” Among her papers is a collection of proofs of the Report in various stages; some corrected by Dr. Farr and Dr. Sutherland, others corrected and re-corrected by her. The descriptive portion of the Report is in substance a repetition of her “Observations,” in the colder language which is held[32] to add weight and dignity to such documents; though here and there Miss Nightingale's touch may be felt. The magnitude of the evils which needed to be remedied is put in an arresting way. “Besides deaths from natural causes [9 per 1000], 60 head per 1000 of our troops perish annually in India. It is at that expense that we have held dominion there for a century; a company out of every regiment has been sacrificed every twenty months. These companies fade away in the prime of life; leave few children; and have to be replaced, at great cost, by successive shiploads of recruits.” The cost of preventable sickness in the Indian army was calculated at £388,000 a year. The list of Recommendations with which the Report concludes may be described as a Sanitary Charter for the Army in India—a Charter which during many successive years was gradually put into force.

Last of all came what Miss Nightingale considered the most vital point of all—namely, the suggestion of practical machinery by which, if the Government adopted it, the recommendations of the Commission might be carried out. At this crucial point, she had a very stiff fight. The machinery, as she had devised it, was to be twofold. First, there were to be Sanitary Commissions appointed for each Presidency in India. On this point, all the Commissioners seem to have been agreed; but it was different with Miss Nightingale's second point. The reports which she had read and marked from the Indian stations filled her with a fear that if the whole of the initiative were left to India the work would in some cases be negligently or unintelligently done. There had not yet been in that country the same education of public opinion amongst the governing class in the science of sanitation that had been in progress in England. She deemed it essential that the machinery recommended by the Commission should in one way or another include provision to secure for India the experience already obtained in dealing with all kinds of sanitary questions in England. She had formulated her own plans to this end at an early stage of the Commission. What she first suggested was a Sanitary Department at the India Office, and this, as we shall hear in a later chapter (p. 153),[33] was ultimately established. It had been well if the suggestion had been accepted from the beginning, for the compromise which was substituted led to some confused friction between the War Office and the India Office. As the second-best plan, Miss Nightingale wanted the standing Sanitary Committee at the War Office,[18] reinforced by one or two representatives of India, to be invested with authority over Indian sanitation, and she wanted, secondly, a Sanitary Code to be issued for India by the Home Government. She had named the two Indian officials, and had urged the addition of Mr. Rawlinson, at that time the leading sanitary engineer in England.[19] But on all this there was some difference of opinion. She was kept informed from day to day of the currents of thought among the Commissioners, and of the course of the discussions. The letters, minutes, memoranda in which she urged her views are many. She had first to persuade Lord Stanley, and this in personal interviews she succeeded in doing. She begged him to open the subject to Sir Charles Wood, the Secretary for India, who did not take the suggestion amiss. There were still, however, some contrary opinions, but ultimately her policy prevailed. “I cannot help telling you, in the joy of my heart,” she wrote to Harriet Martineau (May 19), “that the final meeting of the Indian Sanitary Commission was held to-day—that the Report was signed—and that after a very tough battle, lasting three days, to convince these people that a Report was not self-executive, our Working Commission was carried, not quite in the original form proposed, but in what may prove a better working form because grafted on what exists. This is the dawn of a new day for India in sanitary things, not only as regards our Army, but as regards the native population.” But Miss Nightingale was never content to let the light steal in gradually; she wanted to secure for the Report of the Commission the fullest possible glare of publicity.

Her first concern was to get early notices of the Report[34] in the newspapers. The daring, the celerity, the energy of her moves might excite the admiration even of the greatest experts in this sort of our own day. The gist of the Report, so far as its statement of the facts was concerned, was contained in her own “Observations”; and, as explained above, she had already circulated these both in India and at home. Having thus, as it were, salted the ground, she prepared for the official publication. As one of the principal authors of the Report, she was obviously entitled to some copies. She obtained a note from Lord Stanley, the Chairman, to that effect. The Queen's printer, Mr. Spottiswoode, was her very good friend, having been associated with her in more than one philanthropic enterprise, and, after seeing Lord Stanley's note, he promised to use every expedition and to let Miss Nightingale have some of the very earliest copies. She sent them off immediately; to various influential friends (Sir John Lawrence among the number), but principally to writers for the press; and with regard to these latter, there was no reason why she should tell each recipient of the special early copy that he was not the only individual so favoured. A Blue-book of 2028 pages is not mastered in a minute, and people wondered how so many of the newspapers and magazines were able to notice the Report so fully on the instant. “Mr. Baker [the Clerk to the Commission] has regained his equanimity,” wrote the printer (July 23); “but for three days he could not recover the shock of your rapid action.” Miss Nightingale's celerity may well have seemed indecent to the leisurely official mind; for six months were allowed to pass before the Government of India was officially provided with copies of the Report! This delay may seem incredible to those not well versed in such affairs, but it is recorded in a Government Dispatch,[20] and an investigation made by Miss Nightingale into another delay of a like kind may perhaps afford an explanation.[21][35] Meanwhile, in July 1863, she had, for some days previous to the issue of the Report, been arranging for reviews in newspapers and magazines, in Edinburgh and Dublin as well as in London. Mr. W. R. Greg was especially helpful; he contributed notices to three important periodicals—the Economist, the National Review, and the Spectator. Miss Nightingale was diligent also in coaching Harriet Martineau, writing at great length to explain the points on which public opinion might most usefully declare itself. Miss Martineau wrote on the Report in the Daily News, Macmillan's Magazine, and Once a Week; and on her own part she had a contribution to make to the cause. She was an old friend of Lord and Lady Elgin. Should she write to them? The indefatigable Miss Nightingale at once sent her the heads of a letter on the subject which should go immediately to the Viceroy.

Though Miss Nightingale attached importance to notices in the press, she was equally eager that the Report itself should attract the attention of influential individuals in and out of Parliament. And here at the outset she met with a severe check which, however, by her energy and resource was turned to the greater advantage of the cause. The Blue-books were of enormous bulk, and a smaller edition had been prepared, apparently by the Clerk. Owing to what was officially described as “a mistake,” it was this smaller edition that was “presented to both Houses of Parliament by command.” It alone was placed on sale to the public; the 1000 copies of the complete work (of which the printer had been ordered to break up the type) were reserved for the press and for official purposes. They could be obtained (on application) by members of Parliament, but were not accessible to the public. The smaller edition, which the officials designed for public use, did not contain Miss Nightingale's “Observations” (though these were referred to in the Report) and did not contain the evidence from the Indian Stations. It gave instead a “précis of evidence” made by the Clerk. This, as Miss Nightingale thought, was badly done, and, moreover, referred in the margin to passages which again were not accessible to the public. Miss Nightingale was naturally and justly indignant[36] at a proceeding which thus left the recommendations of the Commission unsupported, so far as the public were concerned, by the essential facts. She set herself with characteristic energy to rectify the official “mistake,” or, as she suspected, to circumvent the design. If indeed there were any intention to withhold from the public eye the full extent of the terrible state of things in India, the authors of the design had counted without the formidable Lady-in-Chief. As for the partial suppression of her own “Observations,” that was easily rectified. Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Farr, incensed at the treatment which she had received, promptly made arrangements with a publisher for the separate issue of her “Observations.”[22] This little “red book” had a large sale, and was widely reviewed in the press. Thereby the subject received a second series of notices. “It is not a book,” said one of the reviewers, “but a great action.” But Miss Nightingale herself was more concerned with the wide circulation of the Blue-books themselves. First, she wrote round to every member of Parliament whom she knew, informing them of the facts and begging them to apply for the unmutilated edition. One of the answers she received was from Lord Shaftesbury (Aug. 22): “I will immediately apply for the copy of evidence you mention, but ought we not to insist when Parliament meets that it be fully circulated like any other document? Sir C. Wood may have made a ‘mistake,’ but a far greater mistake would be to bury this important matter in the ‘tomb of all the Capulets.’ … You have achieved very grand things; and you must thank God that He has called you to such a work, and has so blessed it. I have much to talk to you about.”[23] Secondly, she extracted a promise that inquirers at Hansard's office should be informed that copies of the unmutilated edition could be obtained by the public on application at the Burial Board Office.[24] She took very good care that they should not be buried there. She prompted all sorts and conditions of persons among her acquaintances[37] to apply, and there was a run on the book. Next, and chiefly, she was anxious that the essential parts of the Report should come under the notice of every officer and every official in India who was in any degree responsible for the health of the army and who might be brought by a knowledge of the facts to further the cause of sanitary reform. The way in which she achieved her purpose was characteristic. Miss Nightingale had a personal grievance in this matter; and she used it, as on a previous occasion she had used her personal prestige, to gain a public end. To an intimate friend in the War Office, she was downright: “Done in some way or other, I am determined it shall be.” But to the great men above him, she was suave—insidiously and dangerously suave. She entirely agreed that it would be expensive to reprint, and absurd to circulate widely, two enormous Blue-books of 2028 pages. Nobody would read them. But on the other hand was it not a little unfair to her to circulate an abridged edition, from which was excluded all the material upon which, at the request of the Commission, she had spent years of labour? But what was to be done? She knew how busy all Government officials were; but she would willingly undertake the task of putting together an amended edition of the smaller issue. Would the Treasury object to the cost? If so, she would bear it. In one way and another, she said, she had spent £700 in connection with the former Report on the British Army; the cost of similar work in connection with India would be less, and she would gladly defray it. Lord de Grey authorized her to proceed on August 26, and for the next three months she was busy in preparing the Report in the form in which it was to be circulated among military and medical officers.[25] But she was not quite satisfied yet. She had provided means for bringing her horses to water, but who was to make them drink? Her amended report was to be circulated amongst the Army in India, but would it be read? She was afraid not, unless the Secretary of State specially commended it to the attention of his subordinates. Did the War Office shrink from taking initiative in a matter which also concerned the India Office? “But surely Sir[38] Charles Wood will be very grateful to you for remedying his mistake.” The Minister assented, and a preface was added to Miss Nightingale's edition of the Report, in which the Secretary for War explained that it was circulated “with a view of affording information on the subject to Commanding, Engineering, and Medical Officers.” Of course there were official delays, and this edition of the Report was not issued till August 1864, but it gave Miss Nightingale opportunity of organizing yet another press crusade. Through Sidney Herbert's friend, Count Strzelechi, who was also a friend of Delane, she was able to secure a series of articles in the Times on the sanitary needs of India.[26] The Count was very proud of what he had been able to do for her. None of Miss Nightingale's official works obtained a wider circulation than the “Observations”; nor, I suppose, did any Blue-book on such a subject ever attain a greater amount of publicity.


But all this was only a preliminary. Public attention had been aroused, and every one said vaguely that something must be done. It remained for Government to do it. The steps which Miss Nightingale took to this end, the obstacles which she encountered, the measure of success which she attained, will be described in the next chapter.

The work, which has been described in foregoing pages and which Miss Nightingale continued during the following year, was very heavy, and it was all done under grievous physical disability. In 1857–58, when she was doing like work in connection with the Royal Commission on the Home Army, though she was in very delicate health, she had yet been able to move about. When Sidney Herbert could not come to see her, she could go to see him. But now in 1863, when work for the Commission on the Indian Army was at its height, she was bedridden. When she invited a nursing friend to her house, the formula was “Will you come and spend Saturday to Monday in bed with me?”[39] She could only receive her visitors, if at all, in her own room, and all her writing was done in bed. She was sustained through these disabilities partly, it may be, by the consciousness of power and by satisfaction in its exercise, but principally by passionate devotion to her cause. And there was another feeling which gave her strength, as appears from many a passage in her private letters. She was carrying out, as best she could alone, the “joint work” which had been left “unfinished” at Sidney Herbert's death. “There is no feeling more sustaining,” Sir John McNeill had said to her, when Arthur Clough was also taken from her, “than that of being alone.” So, in some sort, I think, she found it. And sometimes, as to one who stretches out his hands in yearning for the further shore, there seemed to come to her voices of encouragement. “I heard the other day,” she said in 1863, “of two Englishmen who were nearly lost by being caught by the tide on the coast of France, and a little French fisher-girl ran all along the wet sands to show them the only rock, half a mile from the shore, which the tide did not cover, where of course she was obliged to stay with them. It got quite dark, the water rose above their knees, but presently they heard a sound, faint and far off, and the little girl said, ‘They think the tide is turning, they are shouting to cheer us!’ I often think I hear those on the far-off shore who are shouting to cheer me.”




I am more hopeful than you appear to be in regard to the good likely to be effected by the Report. Although our Indian administration has great difficulties to contend with owing to the nature of the country and the people, it is both honest and able; and I never knew a public measure, the advantage of which was generally admitted, which ultimately was not properly taken in hand.—Sir Charles Trevelyan (Letter to Florence Nightingale, Aug. 24, 1862).

In the last chapter we traced Miss Nightingale's hand throughout the famous Report of the Indian Sanitary Commission. We saw how she worked for the inclusion, in the Commissioners' recommendations, of machinery for getting the other recommendations adopted; we saw, too, how cleverly she manœuvred to obtain wide publicity and discussion for the whole subject. But this was not enough for her. She had created a favourable atmosphere; she had provided suitable machinery; it remained to set the wheels going round. “Reports are not self-executive”: she applied her words in this fresh direction; and, as in the case of the Home Commission five years before, so now she gave not a moment's rest to herself or to anybody else whom she could influence until reforms, recommended by the Report, were set on foot.

Miss Nightingale was as eager, in as great a hurry to begin, as determined to have her way, as before; but the difficulties were now greater. In the case of the Home Army, only one department (though that, to be sure, was a dual one) was concerned; in the case of Sanitary measures for the Army in India, there were the India Office and the[41] Government of India to be considered as well as the War Office. And everybody, who knows anything about public affairs, knows what it means to the cause of prompt efficiency if departments begin wrangling with each other. And then Miss Nightingale had no longer her “dear master.” Lord Stanley, the Chairman of the Indian Commission, was friendly, and sincerely desirous to see things done; but he was not an enthusiast. His temperament was cool; his judgment, critical. But, as I have already said, he had a great belief in Miss Nightingale, and though she did not always find him an easy man to drive, she did it. The moment the Report was signed she was up and at him. He must do as Sidney Herbert did; that is, go at once to Ministers and insist on immediate steps being taken to put the recommendations of the Report into operation. Otherwise, all their labour might dissolve in air. Lord Stanley proposed to wait and see:—

(Lord Stanley to Miss Nightingale.) July 10, 1863. … Do not fear that Lord Herbert's work will be left unfinished: sanitary ideas have taken root in the public mind, and they cannot be treated as visionary. The test of experience is conclusive. The ground that has been gained cannot be lost again.——July 12.… The first step is to ask what the War and India departments will do. If on consideration they consent to the appointment of the commissions recommended with or without modification of our plan, the thing is fairly started. I am inclined to believe that they will be found willing. But we must give them time to read the report. If they object to do anything, other methods may be tried. We have friends in the Indian Council, and Lord de Grey is a Sanitarist. I quite agree in what you say as to its being a duty to help the ministry of the day in working out their plans. Practically I have acted on this rule. Few matters pass in the India Office that do not come before me. But such help cannot be offered by an outsider—it must be asked by those who are responsible. If Sir C. Wood desires assistance in giving effect to the sanitary projects, I will not refuse it. There is ample time to consider all this.

So Lord Stanley was waiting to be asked. Then it became Miss Nightingale's business to contrive that he should be asked. She saw Lord de Grey, begged him to go forthwith to the India Office, and to suggest to Sir Charles[42] Wood that he should talk matters over with Lord Stanley. The thing was done:—

(Lord Stanley to Miss Nightingale.) July 24. I have had several conversations with Sir C. Wood, and from the language he now holds, I consider it settled that the report of the commissioners will be acted upon—the W.O. Commission being enlarged for the purpose of dealing with Indian questions. I have also arranged with him for the settlement of all personal claims arising out of our enquiry.[27] I hope, therefore, that we may look on our work as done for the present. It is probable that difficulties will arise out of the conflicting claims of the Indian and home authorities: but these we must be prepared for, and deal with as they come up. So far, all has gone well.

The Duke of Newcastle wrote to her to like effect (Aug. 31): “The Report on the Indian Army is attracting much attention, and I have no doubt it will do a great deal of good, tho' there is supposed to be still a very strong obstructive power in the India Office.” For a time, it seemed as if official measures would be taken with reasonable celerity. Two members, to represent India, were added to the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission. The Secretary for India sent a dispatch (Aug. 15) suggesting the formation of Sanitary Commissions as recommended in the Report. Miss Nightingale was asked to draft a code of suggestions which might be sent out to India. But soon there was a hitch. The military element in the India Office quarrelled with the Report, and it was intimated that there might be similar criticism from the military element in the Government of India. The accuracy of Dr. Farr's statistics was to be impugned; and it was to be objected that Miss Nightingale's “Observations” did not in all cases reflect the present state of the Indian stations. As if reports, which had taken and must have taken months and months to collect, could possibly have been brought up to the last moment! And as if the mere fact that such reports had been called for was not likely to lead to some improvement! These things need not detain us. They were, as Miss Nightingale[43] put it, “the Crimea over again,” “these and those” protesting that things were not so bad as they had been painted, and that in any case it was not A who was to blame, but B. But meanwhile everything was hung up. Lord Stanley, the Chairman of the Commission, whose Report was impugned, was in the country. Miss Nightingale “urged and baited him” (so she described it) to come up to London and return to the charge. He came in November, and had an interview with her before seeing Sir Charles Wood.


And now an event occurred which was followed by results of consequence to her cause. Lord Elgin, the Viceroy, while travelling in the Himalayas, was stricken down by a heart complaint from which he was not expected to recover. The question of a successor became urgent. The minds of many turned to Sir John Lawrence, but, with one exception, no Indian civilian since Warren Hastings had permanently held the office of Viceroy. Miss Nightingale had unbounded admiration for him. The soldier's heart in her loved his heroic deeds. “What would Homer have been,” she once said, “if he had had such heroes as the Lawrences to sing?”[28] Personal intercourse had filled her with closer admiration for what Lord Stanley called “a certain heroic simplicity” in the man, for his unaffected piety, his rugged honesty, his deep sympathy with human suffering. In later years a photograph of Watts's portrait of Lawrence always hung in Miss Nightingale's room. At the moment with which we are now concerned, she regarded him as the indispensable man for India, not more on account of the threatening border war on the north-west frontier (the consideration which doubtless most moved Lord Palmerston), than on account of his sympathy with the cause of sanitary reform. An opportunity came for putting in her word. Sir Charles Wood consulted his predecessor at the India Office, and Lord Stanley in turn talked matters over with Miss Nightingale. She urged him with fervent eagerness to do everything in his power to promote the[44] appointment of Sir John Lawrence. Lord Elgin died on November 20. Lawrence was appointed on November 30, and was to start for India immediately:—

(Lord Stanley to Miss Nightingale.) Dec. 1. I saw Sir C. Wood yesterday. The sanitary question was gone into, tho' not so fully as I could have wished. Sir J. Lawrence's appointment is a great step gained. He knows what is wanted, and has no prejudices in favour of the existing military administration. I shall see him to-night and shall probably be able to have some talk with him on the subject. But why should not he see you? The plans are in the main yours; no one can explain them better: you have been in frequent correspondence with him. I believe there will now be but little difficulty in India.… Let me repeat—you must manage to see Sir John Lawrence. He does not go till the 10th. Your position in respect of this whole subject is so peculiar that advice from you will come with greater weight than from anyone else.

Miss Nightingale was among the first to offer congratulations to the new Viceroy; the terms in which she addressed him expressed what she sincerely and intensely believed:—

(Miss Nightingale to Sir John Lawrence.) Among the multitude of affairs and congratulations which will be pouring in upon you, there is no more fervent joy, there are no stronger good wishes, than those of one of the humblest of your servants. For there is no greater position for usefulness under heaven than that of the government of the vast Empire you saved for us. And you are the only man to fill it. So thought a statesman with whom I worked not daily, but hourly, for five years, Sidney Herbert—when the last appointment was made. In the midst of your pressure pray think of us, and of our sanitary things on which such millions of lives and health depend.[29]

Prompted by Lord Stanley, Miss Nightingale asked the new Viceroy to call. He was the first of a succession of high Indian officials who made a point of coming to Miss Nightingale before leaving for their posts. The interview took place on December 4. Miss Nightingale never forgot either the interview itself or Lord Stanley's kindly anxiety that[45] it should take place. Thirty years later (Feb. 17, 1893), in sending Aitchison's Memoir of Lord Lawrence to Sir Harry Verney, she wrote: “How many touches—short but sweet—I could add to the book! The real tale of Sir J. Lawrence's appointment as Viceroy will never be told. During the only ten days left to Lawrence before he started, he came to see me. How kind it was of Lord Stanley. He came like a footman to my door, and, without giving his name, sent up to ask whether Sir John Lawrence was coming. The interview was one never to be forgotten.”

Sir John Lawrence discussed the sanitary question with Miss Nightingale in all its bearings, and they exchanged views further by correspondence before he left London:—

(Miss Nightingale to Dr. Farr.) Dec. 10. I have had the great joy of being in constant communication with Sir John Lawrence, and of receiving his commands to do what I had almost lost the hope of being allowed to do—viz. of sending out full statements and schemes of what we want the Presidency Commissions to do. I should be glad to submit to you copies of papers of mine which he desired me to write and which he took out with him, as to the constitution of the Presidency Commissions, if you care to see them. They are, of course, confidential. I have also seen Lord Stanley more than once during these busy days. And with Sir John Lawrence's command, we feel ourselves empowered to begin the Home Commission,[30] and to further our plans upon it. Sir John Lawrence, so far from considering our Report exaggerated, considers it under the mark.

Thus was preparation made for putting the Report into execution in India. During Lawrence's Viceroyalty, Sir Bartle Frere was governor of Bombay. “Men used to say,” he told Miss Nightingale, “that they always knew when the Viceroy had received a letter from Florence Nightingale: it was like the ringing of a bell to call for sanitary progress.”



Within a month of his arrival in India, Sir John Lawrence had set the Sanitary Commissions on foot, and nothing was wanting except hints and instructions from home:—

(Sir John Lawrence to Miss Nightingale.) Calcutta, Feb. 5 [1864]. I write a line to say that we have commenced work by establishing our Sanitary Committees for Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. They are composed of five members. A Civilian is at their head, and a Medical Officer as Secretary. I hope that you will expedite the transmission to India of the codes and rules and plans which have been approved of for home and the colonies. We shall then have an idea in a practical shape of the main features of the sanitary system, and can readily adapt it to the peculiar circumstances of the country. Without such a guide we shall often be perhaps working in direct opposition to your views. Where we differ, it will become our duty to set forth the grounds for so doing, in sending our plans and reports home. Pray excuse this hurried scrawl, and believe me, Sincerely yours, John Lawrence.

It was not Miss Nightingale's fault that this plea for expedition was necessary. In December 1863 Lord de Grey had again asked her to draft a letter to the India Office, as from the War Office, on the measures recommended by the Royal Commission, and she had done it. But days, weeks, months passed, and nothing happened. In January 1864 her “Suggestions in regard to Sanitary Works required for the Improvement of Indian Stations,”[31] written at the urgent request of the Governor-General, were ready, Dr. Sutherland, Dr. Farr, and Mr. Rawlinson collaborating with her. Again months passed and nothing happened. The Barrack and Hospital Improvement Committee had been officially informed in December of the appointment of the Indian members, and requested to report on any matters which might be referred to it by the Secretary for India or the Secretary for War; but as yet no Indian reference had been made. Miss Nightingale chafed sorely at the needless delay. The Governor-General wrote to[47] her again and again pressing for the Suggestions. She had done her part long ago; the War Office had been in possession of her Draft for months. She tried plain pressure, and pressure barbed with sarcasm. “Poor man!” she wrote in forwarding to the War Office one of the Governor-General's letters (March 10); “he really expects despatch. He thinks we can write a letter in three months! He must be more fit for a Lunatic Asylum than for a Governor-Generalship.” Or, when the Government had been having a close division in the House,[32] she tried to play the India Office against the War Office. “You will all be ‘out’ this session,” she wrote to the War Office (March 7, 1864); “after which I shall be able to get what I like from Lord Stanley [I.O.], but you will not be able to get what you like from Gen. Peel [W.O.]. It is therefore very desirable that this letter should be written now at once while you are still ‘in.’” It turned out that the reason of the delay was this: the War Office had sent a preliminary letter to the India Office, and the India Office resented it. Sir Charles Wood, it was explained to Miss Nightingale, had “snubbed” Lord de Grey. The War Office was sulking in its tents accordingly. The India Office, on its part, was standing on its dignity, and was not going to place itself in the humiliating position of taking action proposed to it by the War Office. And this was the reason why Miss Nightingale's Suggestions, for which the Governor-General was asking, were still pigeon-holed. As for minor recommendations in the Royal Commission's Report, it was quite true that many of them could be carried out by administrative order, and some of them were; but the difficulty in the case of others was that it had hitherto passed the wit of man to discover with whom the power, or the responsibility, of making the order lay. Well may Miss Nightingale have written, as she did in more than one letter of this time (Jan. 1864): “No impression in all my life was ever ‘borne in upon me’ more strongly than this, that the Ministers have never considered the respective jurisdictions of the W.O. and the I.O., and that I.O., W.O., Horse Guards at home, Commander-in-Chief in India, Governor-General in India are as little defined as to the[48] respective powers and duties as if India were the Sandwich Islands.”

On the major matter, the dispatch of sanitary suggestions to guide the Indian authorities, Miss Nightingale now resolved that the delay should come to an end. She had drafted an ultimatum to the War Office, threatening an attack in the House of Commons, when Lord Stanley, a prominent member of the Opposition, appeared on the scene. He had forewarned Miss Nightingale, as we have heard, that departmental jealousies would cause some delay; but seven months had now passed since the Report of his Commission had been issued, and he seems to have thought that this was time enough to allow for the two offices to let off steam between themselves. He wrote to Miss Nightingale suggesting that he should come to see her, and offering, if she approved, to put pressure either upon Lord de Grey or upon Sir Charles Wood. Miss Nightingale loyally gave her friends at the War Office a last chance, but they did not care to take it. Lord Stanley saw Sir Charles Wood accordingly, promised him parliamentary support in any action which he might take, and matters were at last arranged. Miss Nightingale's draft “Suggestions” were submitted to the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission, and with slight alterations were adopted by that body. It was a War Office Commission, but the dignity of the India Office was consulted by the statement on the title-page of the Blue-book, that the Suggestions had been prepared by the said Commission “in accordance with Letters from the Secretary of State for India in Council.” The fact was that they were prepared by Miss Nightingale in accordance with the wishes of Sir John Lawrence.

When once the “Suggestions” had been passed officially, it was within her power, by the simple expedient of laying in a stock of early copies, to prevent a moment's further delay. She used the power; and could not deny herself a few genial taunts at her official friends. “I beg to inform you,” she wrote to Captain Galton at the War Office (Aug. 8), “that by the first mail after signature I sent off by H.M.'s book-post, at an enormous expense (I have a good mind to charge it to you!), to Sir John Lawrence[49] direct no end of copies of Suggestions (also to the Presidency Commissions); and that, as he is always more ready to hear than you are to pray (you sinners!), I have not the least doubt that they will have been put in execution long before the India Office has even begun to send them.”[33] She was not far wrong; six or seven weeks elapsed before the official copies were sent,[34] and meanwhile Miss Nightingale was able to get in another gibe. She heard from Sir John Lawrence that he had ordered the Suggestions to be reprinted in India. “It might be as well,” she wrote to the War Office, “to hurry your copies for the India Office, who will otherwise receive them first from India.”


In India itself, advance, with Sir John Lawrence at the helm, was rapid. The President and the Secretary of each Sanitary Commission were required to devote their whole attention to the work. They were charged to “consider and afford advice and assistance in all matters relative to the health of the Army, and to supervise the gradual introduction of sanitary improvements in Barracks, Hospitals, and Stations, as well as in Towns in proximity to Military Stations.” Of every step taken, Miss Nightingale was kept informed. Sir John wrote to her frequently to report progress; he described to her the condition of all the Stations he had inspected on his way up to Simla; he applied to her for information on special points. His private secretary, Dr. Hathaway, who also had seen Miss Nightingale before he left England, wrote yet more fully and frequently.[50] The President of the Bengal Commission was Mr. Strachey.[35] He, too, had made Miss Nightingale's acquaintance, and they corresponded at great length. Dr. J. P. Walker, a surgeon in the Indian Army, was in England in December 1863. He wrote to Miss Nightingale, as a devoted follower of her school. He went out to India, was appointed Secretary of the Bengal Commission, and at every stage consulted her and reported to her. Mr. R. J. Ellis, President of the Madras Commission, and Dr. Leith, President of the Bombay one, also corresponded with her. To any official in India, from the Governor-General downwards, who was ready to listen, Miss Nightingale had much to say. The correspondence with Sir John Lawrence is the most interesting:—

(Sir John Lawrence to Miss Nightingale.) Simleh, June 12 [1864]. It was truly kind of you to write and give me so nice an account of my children.… What an exciting time must Garibaldi's visit to England have been. He is indeed a noble fellow, and fully worthy of all our sympathies. I only trust that he will be persuaded to keep quiet and bide his time. A good day for his country, if the people only deserve it, must surely come. I am doing what I can to put things in order out here; but it is a very uphill work, and many influences have to be managed and overcome. I often think of the last visit I paid you before leaving England and of your conversation on that occasion. You will recollect how much I dwelt on the difficulties which meet one on every side. These have been exemplified in a way I could scarcely understand or anticipate, by the good folks of England really believing that I had sanctioned an attack on the religion of the Hindoos, because I desired to improve the health of the people in Calcutta!

(Miss Nightingale to Sir John Lawrence.) 32 South Street, Sept. 26 [1864]. My dear Sir John Lawrence—I always feel it a kind of presumption in me to write to you—and a kind of wonder at your permitting it. I always feel that you are the greatest figure in history, and yours the greatest work in history, in modern times. But that is my very reason. We have but one Sir John Lawrence. Your Bengal Sanitary Commission is doing its work, like men—like martyrs, in fact,—and what a[51] work it is! All we have in Europe is mere child's play to it. Health is the product of civilization, i.e. of real civilization. In Europe we have a kind of civilization to proceed upon. In India your work represents, not only diminished Mortality as with us, but increase of energy, increase of power of the populations. I always feel, as if God had said: mankind is to create mankind. In this sense you are the greatest creator of mankind in modern history.…

Would there be any impropriety in your Sanitary Commissions sending copies of their printed Minutes to the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission here, through the India Office—merely for information? As far as your Bengal Commission goes: these men don't want urging: they have not now to be taught. Anything which might even appear to interfere with the responsibilities of your Commissions, unless at their own request, is not only undesirable: but, as far as the Bengal Commn. is concerned, useless. But, if you saw no objection to sending the Minutes for information to the War Office Commission here, I am sure they would very much like it. Or, if that would be too formal and official (as regards the India Office here), if they, the Minutes, might be sent to me, with permission to shew them to one or two, such as Lord Stanley (our late Chairman of the Royal Commission), Dr. Sutherland, and Capt. Galton, of the War Office, &c., it would answer the same purpose. The India Office here does not shew now the least jealousy of the Barrack and Hospl. (War Office) Commission. On the contrary, one can scarcely help smiling at the small things it is glad to throw off its responsibility for upon said Commission.

There are three glaring (tho' lesser) evils in Calcutta about which I know you have been employed—lesser tho' they are—and your attention and Dr. Hathaway's have been aroused by them. These are: (1) The Police Hospitals (or state of Hospl. accommodation) for sick poor at Calcutta. The Police establishments seem about as bad as possible. Indeed the poor wretches are brought in mostly to die. The Parisian system of relief is very good: every Police station at Paris has means of temporary help in cases of emergency until the sufferers can be removed to Hospital. Some such arrangement with a thorough reform of the Hospitals, and such additional accommodation as may be wanted, might meet Calcutta's case.

(2) The condition of Jails and Lunatic Asylums in India. Certainly it is not for me to draw your attention or Dr. Hathaway's to this. Probably he knows more about them than any man living. The reports and recommendations of one or two of the Jail Inspectors shew that they want experience: as I am sure Dr. Hathaway will agree with me. Perhaps we might help[52] you by sending out such Reports on the subject as may be useful.

(3) The seamen at the great Ports. You have already done so much. But Rome can't be built in a day. Bad water, bad food bought in Bazaars, and bad drinks cause a vast amount of disease and death. Self-supporting Institutions, such as our Sailors' Homes (of which, indeed, I believe you have already founded more than one), would give the men wholesome food and drink, and lodgings and day-rooms at little cost. So many men perish for want of this kind of accommodation at Calcutta, where the evil seems greatest.

It seems to me so base to be writing while you are doing. Oh that I could come out to Calcutta and organize at least the Hospital accommodation for the poor wretches in the streets. There is nothing I should like so much. But it is nonsense to wish for what is an impossibility. I am sure you will be glad to hear that one of my life-long wishes, viz. the nursing of Workhouse Infirmaries by proper Nurses, is about to be fulfilled. By the munificence of a Liverpool man (who actually gives £1200 a year for the object, but desires not to be named), we undertake next month the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary (of 1000 beds)—the first Workhouse that ever has been nursed—with 15 Head Nurses, trained by ourselves, and a Lady (Volunteer) Matron (who underwent a most serious course of training at our Nurses' School at St. Thomas' Hospital), 15 Assistants, and 52 ex-pauper women, whom we are to train as Nurses.[36] I am sure it is not for us to talk of Civilization. For I have seen, in our English Workhouse Infirmaries, neglect, cruelty, and malversation such as can scarcely be surpassed in semi-barbarous countries. And it was then I felt I must found a school for Nurses for Workhouses, &c. The opportunity has come too late for me to do the Workhouse Nursing myself. But, so it is well done, we care not how. I think with the greatest satisfaction upon your re-union with Lady Lawrence and (some of) your children. God bless you.—I am yours devotedly, Florence Nightingale.

P.S.—The Calcutta Municipality does not seem yet to have wakened up to a sense of its existence. It does not know that it exists: much less, what it exists for. Still, you are conquering India anew by civilization, taking possession of the Empire for the first time by knowledge instead of by the sword.—F. N.

The Commander-in-Chief in India, Sir Hugh Rose (Lord Strathnairn) was hardly less helpful in the cause than the Governor-General. The War Office had sent to him,[53] through the Horse Guards, a letter inviting his attention to the regimental recommendations in the Royal Commission's Report. His reply was most sympathetic, and his period of command was marked, amongst other things, by two reforms specially near to Miss Nightingale's desires: he introduced regimental workshops and soldiers' gardens in cantonments. The War Office forwarded his letter to Miss Nightingale. “It is quite worth while,” she wrote in reply (Aug. 11, 1864), “all that has been suffered,—to have this letter from Sir Hugh Rose. And I forgive everybody everything.” “I sing for joy every day,” she had written previously (June 6), “at Sir John Lawrence's Government.” She made public thanksgiving. To the Social Science Congress at Edinburgh in October 1863, she had contributed a paper, entitled, “How People may Live and not Die in India,” in which she gave, in concise and popular form, a résumé of the Royal Commission's Report. The reading of her paper had been followed by “Three Cheers for Florence Nightingale.” She now (Aug. 1864) republished the Paper, with a Preface, in which, as it were, she gave “Three Cheers for Sir John Lawrence.” She described how the Commissions of Health had been appointed in India, and how they had now been put in possession of all the more recent results of sanitary works and measures which had been of use at home. Then she turned to the military authorities, and described how “several of the worst personal causes of ill-health to which the soldier was in former times exposed have been, or are being, removed.” “The men,” she wrote, “have begun to find out that it is better to work than to sleep and drink, even during the heat of the day. One regiment marching into a Station, where cholera had been raging for two years, were chaffed by the regiments marching out, and told they would never come out of it alive. The men of the entering battalion answered, they would see; we won't have cholera, they think. And they made gardens with such good effect that they had the pleasure, not only of eating their own vegetables, but of being paid for them too by the Commissariat. And this in a soil which no regiment had been able to cultivate before. And not a man had cholera. These good soldiers fought against disease,[54] too, by workshops and gymnasia.”[37] She gave account of trades, savings' banks, games, libraries; noting what had been done and what yet remained to be done. “In the meantime the regulation two drams have been reduced to one. A Legislative Act imposes a heavy fine or imprisonment on the illicit sale of spirits near cantonments. Where there are recreation rooms, refreshments (prices all marked) are spread on a nice clean table.” All these things, which in 1864 were new or exceptional, became in later years well-established and the rule. The main causes of disease among the Army in India were, however, as Miss Nightingale went on to say, want of drainage, want of proper water-supply, want of proper barracks and hospitals. But in these respects she had set the reformers to a work which has continued from that day to this.

There was, indeed, some criticism at the start, but this touched only the past, and did not seriously affect the future. Indian officials felt aggrieved, as I have already said, at the strictures contained in the Report of the Royal Commission, and this movement came to a head in two documents—one, a counter-Report by Dr. Leith, the Chairman of the Bombay Sanitary Commission (Oct. 1864); the other, a dispatch (Dec. 8) from the Government of India (Sir John Lawrence on an important point dissenting). Lord Stanley thought that Dr. Leith ought to be answered at once, and wrote to Miss Nightingale (Oct. 25) for her advice on the subject. She suggested that the answer should be sent in the form of a Report on Dr. Leith's letter by the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission—an ingenious plan, as it gave opportunity to that expert body for giving further advice to one of the Presidency Commissions. Miss Nightingale and Dr. Sutherland drafted the Report, which was adopted by the Commission on January 6, 1865. “I have pleasure,” wrote Lord Stanley to her (Dec. 26), “in sending back the draft reply to Dr. Leith with only one or two verbal amendments suggested. It seems to me well done, moderate in tone, and conclusive in argument.” A reply to the Indian Government's Dispatch, signed by Lord Stanley, Dr. Farr, and Dr. Sutherland, was sent on May 20. Miss Nightingale[55] in her eagerness was much annoyed by these criticisms,[38] and Lord Stanley often told her that she made too much of what were only temporary ebullitions. “Don't be discouraged, dear Miss Nightingale,” he wrote (Jan. 22) when the Government of India's dispatch arrived; “the practical work may go on while the controversy is proceeding. My idea of the matter is that the Indian authorities only want time to set things a little in order—that they are willing to mend, but not inclined to give us the credit of having first put them in the right way. That is human nature.” Lord Stanley was a true prophet. The Indian authorities did mend; and so successfully has the work been carried out by a long line of Commanders, Administrators, and Engineers that the death-rate from preventable disease among the British Army in India has fallen far below the figure which the Royal Commission named as a counsel of perfection.[39]


In this work of “salvation” Miss Nightingale was for many years to play a part as consultant, and sometimes as inspirer. In November 1864 the Governor-General in Council intimated his readiness to consider a scheme for the employment of nurses in Military Hospitals, and thereupon the Bengal Sanitary Commission requested Miss Nightingale to aid them by her advice. She wrote in collaboration with Sir John McNeill a comprehensive series of Suggestions in the following February.[40] Throughout the year (1865) Miss Nightingale was engaged from time to time in Indian sanitary business; and her house served as headquarters for the sanitary reformers. Mr. Ellis, the President of the Madras Commission, came home in the middle of the year in order to study sanitary reforms in this country. Miss Nightingale[56] invited him to use her rooms; sent Dr. Sutherland to accompany him on visits of inspection to hospitals and barracks; arranged meetings between him and Lord Stanley; conferred with him on changes which Sir John Lawrence was proposing to make in the constitution of the Presidency Commissions. The Governor-General himself communicated with her freely on the same subject. The Secretary of the Bengal Commission applied to her for information on trustworthy tests for the discovery of organic matter in water. Being unable to obtain what was wanted from Dr. Parkes, she applied to Dr. Angus Smith (inventor of an air-test also), who wrote a pamphlet for her on the subject. It was printed at her expense. She had it approved by the War Office Sanitary Committee, and a large number of copies was distributed throughout India. She had impressed upon the Governor-General the importance of stirring up the Indian municipalities. The Indian Towns Municipal Improvement Bill (1865) was submitted for her criticism, and she wrote a “Note on the relations which should exist between the powers of raising and spending taxes proposed to be granted to local authorities, and the proper execution of sanitary works and measures in India.” Her friend, Sir Charles Trevelyan, retired from the post of Financial Minister in India in 1865, and she made the acquaintance of his successor, Mr. W. N. Massey. She was very jubilant when she “got a vote of seven millions for my Indian barracks.” She was depressed when the Governor-General wrote to her from time to time saying that the great obstacle in the way of speedier reform was want of money; but she made excuses for her hero. “Sir John Lawrence,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (March 20, 1865), “is just as much hampered with the Horse Guards out there as I am here. He is always writing to me to apologize for the little progress he makes. By the very last mail he says I shall think him ‘timid and perhaps even time-serving.’ I could not help laughing. Certainly Sir J. Lawrence is the only man who ever called Sir J. Lawrence a time-server,—except in the highest possible sense, of serving his country at her greatest time of need in the highest possible way.” She was constantly corresponding with Lord Stanley, urging[57] him to win points for her from the Indian Secretary. “I have just seen Sir Charles Wood,” wrote Lord Stanley (Feb. 10). “He agrees as to the expediency of sending home a yearly report of the sanitary stations in each Presidency.” “Pray never speak of being troublesome,” he wrote again (May 15): “it is a real pleasure to me to help you a little in the great work: I know no other way in which my time can be made equally useful.” He frequently saw Sir Charles Wood on matters which she urged, and he won what was almost her highest praise. “Lord Stanley,” she said, “is a splendid worker.” His cool common sense was perhaps a wholesome antidote sometimes to her almost feverish eagerness. “Publicity,” he said (Aug. 17), “will in the long-run do what we want. People won't stand being poisoned when they know it.” The annual Reports from the Presidencies, obtained by Miss Nightingale some years later (p. 155), were submitted for her “Observations”; and in many other ways, as we shall hear, it was remarkable how close a touch upon the course of sanitary reform in India was maintained by this lady from a bedroom in Mayfair. But essentially Miss Nightingale's work was that of inspirer and pioneer. These chapters will have shown, I think, that a compliment paid to her by the Chairman of the Indian Sanitary Commission was no less true than graceful:—

(Lord Stanley to Miss Nightingale.) St. James's Square, July 25 [1864]. I don't wonder that the delays of the “savage tribe” should try your patience; and I admire the more the care and success with which you keep outward show of annoyance to yourself. I had rather be criticised by any one rather than you! I am only passing through town to-day, there being nothing left to do; but shall be again in this place on Thursday, and ready to wait upon you if any matters want settling. If not, I can only wish you health—success is sure to come—and beg that you will remember the value of your own public service, and not by overwork endanger its continuance. Pray excuse a caution which I am sure I am not the first to give. Every day convinces me more of two things: first, the vast influence on the public mind of the Sanitary Commissions of the last few years—I mean in the way of speeding ideas which otherwise would have been confined to a few persons; and next, that all this has been due to you, and to you almost alone.

In one of many moments of vexation at the delays of[58] the “savages” in their red-tape, Miss Nightingale wrote thus to Captain Galton (June 23, 1864): “The Horse Guards say that they were quite aware of Sir John Lawrence's application and of the delay, but that ‘it is Sir J. Lawrence's one and only object of interest, while it is one out of a thousand of the War Office's.’ They ought to have the V.C. for their cool intrepidity in the face of truth. I have told Sir J. Lawrence of the opinion of these dining-out freliquets as to his hard work. And I think I shall publish it after my death.” But “unlicked cubs,” as she said at Scutari, “grow up into good old bears”[41]; and it is not in order to pay off a score against the “puppies” that I quote this letter. Behind the remark which excited Miss Nightingale's righteous anger there was an element of unconscious truth, and it is one which sums up this and the preceding chapter. It was, indeed, an ignorant untruth to say that Sir John Lawrence had no other work or interest than the promotion of sanitary improvements for the Army in India; and it would be untrue also, as later chapters will show, to say the same thing of Miss Nightingale. Yet it made all the difference for the promotion of that work in India that there was at the head of affairs a man whose heart and soul were in it. And at home, it made all the difference that there was one resolute will, combined with a clear head, determined to give impetus and direction to the work. It was probably quite true to say that to many, perhaps to most, of the men at the War Office and the Horse Guards this question of Army sanitation in India appeared as only “one out of a thousand” questions. To Miss Nightingale it was, in a very literal and instant sense, a matter of life and death; and it was her passionate conviction that supplied the initiating and driving force which compelled reform. If the Governor-General of the time had been hostile or apathetic, even her persistence might yet have been foiled. But, as things were, the co-operation between Sir John Lawrence and Florence Nightingale was as beneficent in its results upon the welfare of the British Army in India, as the co-operation between her and Sidney Herbert had been in the case of the Army at home.




We are trying to reduce chaos into shape. It is three years to-day since I first felt what an awful wreck I had got myself into. I interfering with Government affairs; and the captain of my ship, without whom I should never have done it, dying and leaving me, a woman, in charge. What nonsense people do talk, to be sure, about people finding themselves in suitable positions and looking out for congenial work! I am sure if any body in all the world is most unsuited for writing and official work, it is I. And yet I have done nothing else for seven years but write Regulations.—Florence Nightingale (Letter to Julius Mohl, Jan 1. 1864).

Though Miss Nightingale's main work during these years was connected with the Army in India, she was also continuously engaged in work for the War Office in relation to the army at home. Indeed in some respects the work was as constant, and it was quite as varied, if not as far-reaching in range, as in the days when Sidney Herbert was Secretary of State. She was a kind of Advisory Council to the War Office on all subjects within her sphere, and on some outside it; but the references to her were far more frequent than is commonly the case with those somewhat shadowy bodies; and besides she was a privileged person, with the right of initiating suggestions. The picture of her relations to the War Office as it is disclosed in her papers is remarkable. There are scores of letters from the Ministers. There are hundreds from one of the (non-political) Under-Secretaries. Her own letters in reply are equally numerous. There is a large collection of Drafts, Minutes, Warrants, Regulations. Her private letters tell of frequent interviews with one of the Ministers. Was there ever another case in which nearly every vexed question in War Office administration (other[60] than of a purely military kind) was referred almost as a matter of course to a private lady, and that lady an invalid in her bed? It is not likely that the situation will ever exist again; and it becomes of interest to trace “the Nightingale power” in this matter to its sources.

The primary explanation is simple. In a large class of questions which were occupying the attention of the War Office at this time Miss Nightingale was regarded as the first expert of the day. One sees this in the fact that she was consulted in connection with work, within her sphere, for other departments than the War Office. Thus in 1865 Mr. R. S. Wright (afterwards the judge) was appointed by the Colonial Office to prepare a Report on the condition of Colonial Prisons. He went to Miss Nightingale, asking (April 27) “to be allowed to submit to you for your criticism the conclusions at which I may arrive. Supposing them to be approved by you, it will be a great advantage if I may state that you approve them.”[42] Then, in the second place,—to repeat a phrase which I have already applied to her, she was the official legatee of Sidney Herbert. Everyone who was behind the scenes knew that his work had also been her work, and Sidney Herbert's repute as a reformer stood very high. The official Army world at this time was divided into two camps—those who desired to complete Herbert's work, and those who tried to undo it. Miss Nightingale, as the repository of the Herbert tradition, was the indispensable ally of the former party against the latter. Her friend, Lady Herbert, put the case from her point of view, when she wrote (March 7, 1862), in reply to a letter telling of much weakness and weariness, “If you never wish to live for your own sake, yet bear to live, dearest, for a time to carry out his work, and to keep his memory fresh in the hearts of men.” Some questions of reform arose to which Sir[61] Benjamin Hawes had raised copious objections. “Would Miss Nightingale oblige the Political Under-Secretary by suggesting an answer to Hawes's points?” Sometimes she was the only person who possessed the necessary documents. “Have you got a copy of the Report of the Committee on the Organization of a Medical School? The War Office actually have no copy, and the Army Medical Department only a proof not signed and supposed to have been altered?”

But besides all this there were personal factors in the case. Miss Nightingale had no longer, it is true, an intimate friend at the head of the War Office, and with Lord Herbert's successor, Sir George Lewis, she was not otherwise than by correspondence acquainted. Early in 1862 he had made overtures through Sir Harry Verney, desiring to be given the honour of making Miss Nightingale's personal acquaintance. She was, however, too ill to receive him, and knowing perhaps her proficiency in the classics he sent her some of his jeux d'esprit. The offering had anything but a propitiatory effect. Many of her letters express indignation that the Secretary for War should be writing trifles in Latin instead of reforming the War Office. She was equally indignant when he presently published learned works on Ancient Astronomy and Egyptology. Mr. Jowett was somewhat of the same mind: “I agree with you about Sir G. Lewis and his book. I felt the same disgust at Gladstone for writing nonsense about Homer while the East India Bill was passing through the House.” It does not seem to follow, however, that Mr. Gladstone would have been the more interested in the East India Bill if he had not been engaged in finding the Trinity on Mount Olympus, or that Sir George Lewis would have been any more in the mood to reorganize the War Office if he had not been applying the Egyptological method to modern history, or turning “Hey diddle diddle” into Latin verse. There is a keener point in another of Miss Nightingale's reflections on the Minister (Feb. 19, 1863): “If Sir George Lewis, instead of writing a ‘Dialogue on the Best Forms of Government’ would write (or rather silently act) a Monologue on the Dual Form being the Worst form of Government, the War Office would be much the gainer.” But during his[62] term of office the Under-Secretary was Lord de Grey; and with him she was on very friendly terms, and he, as is obvious from the correspondence, had the highest opinion of her knowledge, her ability, and her influence. The part she played in Lord de Grey's appointment as Secretary of State, after the death of Sir G. Lewis, has already been described. Then in Captain Galton she had throughout these years a standing ally within the War Office, and her daily attendant, Dr. Sutherland, was a member of the Army Sanitary Committee. And in the last resort, if a difficulty worthy of such adjustment arose, she had the ear of the Prime Minister.


Such occasion did arise when, on May 15, 1862, death removed from the War Office Miss Nightingale's old opponent Sir Benjamin Hawes, the Permanent Under-Secretary. She had tried to reorganize him into insignificance in 1861, but “Ben had beaten Sidney Herbert.”[43] Now was a chance of carrying out the plan which Mr. Herbert and she had often discussed—of breaking the bureaucracy, and of dividing up the office. Hitherto the Departments had reported through the Permanent Under-Secretary; the reform scheme was that they should report direct to the Secretary of State. Sir E. Lugard, Military Under-Secretary, was already in part-possession. Let Captain Galton resign his commission, and take the other half, as a civilian (and, what was equally in her mind, a convinced and professional sanitarian). She carried the case to the Prime Minister, and convinced him. Lord Palmerston told her afterwards that when the appointment was first mentioned to the Horse Guards they said it was “simply impossible.” But the Prime Minister advised Sir George Lewis to make the appointment nevertheless:—

(Miss Nightingale to her Father.) 9 Chesterfield Street, Poor Queen's Birthday, 1862. I must tell you the first joy I have had since poor Sidney Herbert's death. Lord Palmerston has forced Sir G. Lewis to carry out Mr. Herbert's and my plan for the reorganization of the War Office in some measure. Hawes's[63] place is not to be filled up. Galton is to do his work as Assistant Under-Secretary. This brings with it some other reforms. Lord de Grey says that he can reorganize the War Office with Captain Galton, because Sir G. Lewis will know nothing about it and never inquires. Sir G. Lewis wrote it (innocently) to the Queen yesterday, and Captain Galton was appointed to-day, resigning the Army of course. No, Sir Charles Trevelyan would not have done at all [in Hawes's place]. It would have been perpetuating the principle (which I have been fighting against in all my official life, i.e., for eight years) of having a dictator, an autocrat, irresponsible to Parliament, quite unassailable from any quarter, immovable in the middle of a (so-called) constitutional government, and under a Secretary of State who is responsible to Parliament. And, inasmuch as Trevelyan is a better and abler man than Hawes, it would have been worse for any reform of principle. I don't mean to say that I am the first person who has laid down this. But I do believe I am the first person who has felt it so bitterly, keenly, constantly as to give up life, health, joy, congenial occupation for a thankless work like this.… It has come too late to give happiness to Galton, as it has come too late for me. He seems more depressed than pleased. And I do believe, if he feels any pleasure, it is that now he can carry out Sidney Herbert's plans in some measure. And it may seem to you some compensation for the enormous expense I cause you that, if I had not been here, it would not have been done. Would that Sidney Herbert could have lived to do it himself! Would that poor Clough could have lived to see it! He wished for it so much—for my sake.…

The high hopes which Miss Nightingale entertained from this slight reorganization were doomed to disappointment. Neither as Under-Secretary, nor after April 1863, when he became Secretary of State, did Lord de Grey manage, and I do not know that he seriously attempted, to reform the War Office root and branch.[44] He and Captain Galton had, according to Miss Nightingale, “miscalculated their power.” She preached the necessity of reform to them unceasingly—in season and, as they may sometimes have thought, out of season too, for she was a very persistent person; and, with Dr. Sutherland's assistance, she provided them with detailed schemes. Her principles were as admirable, as was her criticism scathing when any breach of[64] them came under her notice. There must in all things, she said, be a clear definition of responsibility, with a logical differentiation of functions; and the business of the War Office was to prepare for war—not to jog along with an organization which might hold together in peace, but would break down in the field. Some papers were submitted to her criticism (June 1862). “What strikes me in them,” she wrote, “is the black ignorance, the total want of imagination, as to a state of war in which the War Office seems to be. Really if it was a Joint Stock Company for the manufacture of skins, it could not, as far as appears, be less accustomed to contemplate or to imagine or to remember a state of war.” I am afraid that most of us have lived through times when the same criticism could have been made. Let us hope that it is all a matter of ancient history now. Papers were sent to her dealing with the questions of Purveying and Commissariat. The Commissariat had hitherto been the bankers of the army, and some of the permanent officials saw no reason for a change. From her experience in the Crimea she gave them the reason. The confusion of functions worked badly in the field.[45] As it was bound to do, for it was absurd. “Is a man who buys bullocks the best man to be a banker? Would it not be better to have a separate Treasurer for the Army to receive all moneys and issue them to all departments? In private life nobody makes his steward or butler his banker. It would not be economical. Finance is as much a specialty as marketing, and as much so, to say the least of it, in the Army as in private life.”


Complete reform of the War Office was, then, to remain a task for the future; but Miss Nightingale thought that Lord de Grey and Captain Galton did the administrative work well. Much of it was done with her assistance. From Miss Nightingale's point of view, the most important thing done under the Lewis-De Grey régime was the placing on a permanent footing of the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission. It was important, first, as keeping[65] sound sanitary principles to the forefront in the execution of new works at home. It also, as already explained, provided machinery for promoting sanitary improvements in India. The point, next to its permanence, on which she most insisted was that the Commission should not be under the Army Medical Department, but should be directly responsible to the Secretary of State. “Lord de Grey said,” wrote Captain Galton (June 25, 1862), “that he had adopted exactly your Minute about the Instructions to the Commission.” With its Secretary, Mr. J. J. Frederick, Miss Nightingale was on very friendly terms, and Dr. Sutherland was its most active member. Most of the plans for new barracks or hospitals were submitted to her, and her inspection and criticism of them were searching. Then in 1862 the Government was about to build a new Military General Hospital at Malta. With Dr. Sutherland's aid, she went into every detail, and her Report on the plans occupies twenty-four pages of manuscript. In 1865 Sir Hope Grant succeeded Sir Richard Airey as Quarter-master General, and in that capacity as chairman of the Barrack Commission, the name of which was now changed to the Army Sanitary Committee. He went to see Miss Nightingale, “proud to think that she remembered him”; and the conversation must have been satisfactory; for “our new President is a Trump,” reported Dr. Sutherland to her.

In examining plans, she always had a thought for the horses. When the plans for some cavalry barracks were sent for her criticism she put in a plea (June 4, 1863) for windows in the loose-boxes out of which the horses could see. “I do not speak from hearsay,” she wrote to Captain Galton, “but from actual personal acquaintance with horses of an intimate kind. And I assure you they tell me it is of the utmost importance to their health and spirits when in the loose-box to have a window to look out at. A small bull's-eye will do. I have told Dr. Sutherland but he has no feeling.” To which Dr. Sutherland added: “We have provided such a window and every horse can see out if he chooses to stand on his hind legs with his fore-feet against the wall. It is the least exertion he can put himself to, and if your doctrine is right, he will no doubt do it.”[66] Miss Nightingale had learnt to love the army horse in the Crimea. Many years later, some very bad barracks were closed in Ireland, and men and horses were moved to the Curragh. It was the horses, she wrote, who had done it. “If we are not moved, they said, we shall mutiny. Military horses are quite capable of organizing movements. Did you ever hear of Jack? Jack was a riderless horse (his master having been killed) at the Charge of Balaclava. And he was seen collecting about 30 riderless horses, and at the head of his troop leading them back to, I suppose, Cavalry Headquarters. I have failed to discover whether Jack allowed horseless men to mount some of his horses. These men certainly returned on horseback—but when they found that a comrade, or an officer, was missing, they rode back, one and another, mounted the wounded man, and fought their way out of the Russian melée, but many died in the attempt—a glorious death. And when I see in the hansom-cabs horses who by their beautiful legs must have been hunters or even racers, galloping up Park Lane as long as they can stand, I say too ‘a glorious death’; and horses should teach us, not we them, duty—do you think.”[46]

All regulations for military hospitals and for their nursing staff were similarly submitted to Miss Nightingale. She had a poor opinion of the capacity of the male mind to frame rules for female nurses. “By the united skill,” she wrote (Feb. 16, 1863), of “Messrs. —— and ——, the following Regulations for Female Hospitals were put together:—(1) Kennel your nurses and chain them up till wanted; (2) When the number of Patients does not exceed——, chain up the Nurses without food; (3) Let the number of Nurses vary every day as the number of Patients varies. I send you an amended copy which, if you approve, might be put into type.” She was constantly appealed to in connection with disputes caused at Netley by the difficult temper of Mrs. Shaw Stewart, the Superintendent of the Female Nursing Staff. She and Miss Nightingale were no longer close friends, but Miss Nightingale's sense of justice was strong, and she continuously supported Mrs. Stewart's authority.



Another large batch of the semi-official correspondence is concerned with Miss Nightingale's favourite child, the Army Medical School, and with the position of the Army doctors generally. The troubles of the professors were still many; the relation of the School to the Secretary of State on the one hand, and to the Army Medical Department on the other, was much vexed; and, when the School was moved to Netley (1863), a fresh set of difficulties cropped up. Miss Nightingale was constantly appealed to, sometimes by the staff, sometimes by the War Office, to smooth over difficulties, to suggest ways out, to settle disputed questions. She was recognized by the War Office as a kind of super-professor. One of the staff sought official sanction for a book on the work of the School: “Lord de Grey wants to know whether he is capable; also whether his proposed syllabus is good. Also to have any critical suggestions upon it which Miss Nightingale could kindly communicate.” Her verdict was favourable. I have been told that some Army doctors of to-day, knowing little about Miss Nightingale except that she found fault with medical arrangements in the Crimea, suppose her not to have been their friend. Nothing could be further from the truth. What she blamed was not the doctors (for most of whom she had the greatest admiration), but the system. From first to last, she was the most efficient friend that the Army Medical Service ever had. In 1862–63 there is a long series of letters from her to the War Office, in which she persistently pleaded for improvement in their status and emoluments. It was in connection with this matter that she wrote to Captain Galton (Dec. 24, 1863): “In re Medical Warrant, I am meek and humble, but ‘I cut up rough.’ I am the animal of whom Buffon spoke, Cet animal féroce mord tous ceux qui veulent le tuer. You must do something for these doctors; or they will do for you, simply by not coming to you.” A series of letters to Sir James Clark in the following year shows with what pertinacity she fought the battle of the[68] Army doctors, and how indignant she was at any slights cast upon them:—

April 6 [1864]. I have written threatening letters both to Lord de Grey and to Captain Galton about the [Medical Officers'] Warrant; and after pointing out that both restoration of Warrant and increase of pay are now necessary, I have shown how, when we are exacting duties from the Medical Officer, such as sanitary recommendations to his Commanding Officer, which essentially require him to have the standing of a gentleman with his Commanding Officer,—we are doing things, such as dismounting him at parade, depriving him of presidency at Boards, etc., which in military life, to a degree we have no idea of in civil life, deprive him of the weight of a gentleman among gentlemen.

April 7. The W.O. seem now willing to listen to some kind of terms. They are frightened. They sent me your letter. It was very good, very firm. Don't be conciliatory.

April 9. I wrote for the tenth time a statement of eight pages, with permission to make any use of it they pleased, with my signature, as to Lord Herbert's intentions. But I positively refused to write to Mr. Gladstone, who certainly ought not to grant me what the Secretary of State of War does not urge.

April 11. What is wanted is to put a muzzle on the Duke of Cambridge, and to tell him that he must not alter a Royal Warrant.

April 15. You may think I am not wise in being so angry. But I assure you, when I write civilly, I have a civil answer—and nothing is done. When I write furiously, I have a rude letter—and something is done (not even then always, but only then).

In the following year there was a debate in the House of Lords upon the Military Hospitals which greatly interested, and personally affected, Miss Nightingale. Early in March Lord Dalhousie (the Lord Panmure of earlier days)[47] gave notice of a motion to call attention to the expenditure on the Netley Hospital and the Herbert Hospital respectively, and it was rumoured that the ex-Minister intended to deliver a set attack upon two of his successors, the late Lord Herbert and Lord de Grey. The War Office, in order to be fully prepared, sent to Miss Nightingale for a brief. She gladly supplied it, and she entered into the fray with great[69] spirit. She was very angry that the memory of her “dear master” should be assailed, but I think that she enjoyed not a little the prospect of yet another encounter with “the Bison.” She had beaten him before, and was determined that he should be beaten now. She advised Lord de Grey to avoid giving an advantage to the enemy by withholding any credit to which he was justly entitled. She recalled that at the last time they met, Lord Panmure had complained to her that she ascribed every sanitary reform in the Army to Sidney Herbert, though some of the reforms had been started by himself. She admitted, and advised Lord de Grey to admit, that Lord Panmure had deserved well of the Army by the measures which he took in the Crimea, and by initiating some steps for reducing the mortality at home. These things being admitted, the defence of Lord Herbert would carry the more weight. Having armed the Secretary of State with materials to meet any attack that might be made, Miss Nightingale turned to organize a second line of defence. Sir Harry Verney was dispatched to ask Mr. Gladstone's advice. Mr. Gladstone thought that Lord Harrowby should be retained for the defence, and he was approached. Miss Nightingale sent watching briefs also to her own friends, Lord Shaftesbury and Lord Houghton.[48] When Lord Dalhousie's motion was taken, the rumours turned out to be well founded. He extolled his Netley (the non-“pavilion” hospital) as perfect, and criticized the Herbert Hospital (“pavilion”) as a costly toy in the “glass-and-glare” style, and in a long speech attacked the “wasteful” system which Lord Herbert had introduced by paying attention to “hygienists who had carried their opinions too far.” He had, I suppose, “that turbulent fellow,” Miss Nightingale, in his mind when “he could not help thinking that all these unnecessary knick-knacks in hospitals were introduced partly from the habit, which prevailed at the War Office, of consulting hygienists not connected with the army.” The personal animus in the attack was thought so obvious that the speech fell very flat. And Lord de Grey's reply—“quite admirable” according to Miss Nightingale—was so courteous, yet so[70] conclusive, that her “counsel” were unanimously of opinion that not another word was necessary. Apart from any personal question, Lord Dalhousie's speech[49] has a certain historical interest as embodying some of the prejudices against which Miss Nightingale as a Hospital Reformer had to contend. A little later in the year a military attack on the sanitarians was threatened in the House of Commons, but this only took the form of questions about the vote under which payment by the War Office to Dr. Sutherland appeared.[50] Miss Nightingale sent a note to the War Office, setting forth the facts and emphasizing the value of his services in the cause of sanitary improvement.


These were subjects in which Miss Nightingale was directly concerned, but questions of many other kinds were referred to her. I find in the correspondence with the War Office during these years that, in addition to matters otherwise mentioned in this chapter, her advice was asked upon such subjects as an Apothecaries' Warrant, barracks for Ceylon, “Fever Tinctures,” Instructions for Cholera, fittings for Military Hospitals, the proposed amalgamation of the Home and Indian Medical Services, the organization of Hospitals for Soldiers' Wives, Sanitary Instructions for New Zealand, revision of soldiers' rations, staff appointments at Netley, appointment of West Indian staff surgeons, an outbreak of Yellow Fever in Bermuda, the relation of Commissariat Barracks and Purveying at Foreign Stations, victualling on transports and the Mhow court-martial.[51] On one occasion she was asked to send hints for a speech in the House of Commons. Lord Hartington, then Under-Secretary for War, would have to defend a large increase[71] in the votes for Hospital and Medical Service. The Crimean War and Miss Nightingale's crusade had raised the expenditure from £97,000 in 1853–54 to £295,000 in 1864–65. “Could you send me a paragraph for Lord Hartington's speech,” she was asked, “to show the salient points of what the nation gets for its money? Something pithy, put in your best manner.” “There is nothing in the world I should like so much,” she replied (Feb. 29, 1864), “as to have to do Lord Hartington's speech and stand in his shoes on such an occasion.” She sent some pithy comparisons; and, in case the Minister wanted something heavier, a detailed memorandum. I suppose Lord Hartington chose the heaviness and rejected the pith; for when Miss Nightingale read the parliamentary report, she thought the speech a poor performance.[52] The same kind of references to Miss Nightingale went on when in 1866, on Lord de Grey's transference to the India Office,[53] Lord Hartington became Secretary of State for War. “Can you throw light,” she was asked (June 21, 1866), “on the position of the medical officers of the Guards? This is very pressing. The whole matter is an awful mess, and Lord Hartington is anxious to leave it in some way of settlement.” On the following day a lucid and exhaustive Memorandum on the subject went in from her.

In July 1864 Miss Nightingale was engaged on a piece of work for the War Office which was closely associated with her Crimean experiences and with her European repute. It was in August of that year that the international congress was held which framed the famous Geneva Convention. The British delegates were Miss Nightingale's friend, Dr. Longmore, and Dr. Rutherford, and she drafted their Instructions. The principle of the Convention was the neutralization of the wounded under the Red Cross. Societies formed under the Red Cross were soon organized throughout Europe, and the movement led to a great development of volunteer-nursing in war time.

Sometimes Miss Nightingale sent in suggestions on her own account. She was in close touch with soldiers and[72] sailors, and a woman's sympathetic insight appears in this letter:—

(Miss Nightingale to Captain Galton.) Sept. 21 [1863]. People are complaining that when a Regiment sails, many of their wives and children are left behind, and the soldiers are unable to make any provision for their support until they have reached their destination, say China or Calcutta (after a four months' voyage round the Cape), and have been able to send money through their Captains to their families at home. Meanwhile the families have gone through five or six months of distress. For sailors leaving a port in England or Ireland, the Admiralty provides power to leave a standing order that a certain amount of pay is to be sent regularly to their families. The W.O. objects that a similar arrangement would “involve a change in their book-keeping.” It would involve no change. It would involve a small addition. I am willing to go the length of 6d. to furnish an account-book to the W.O., which would enable them to keep these additional accounts. The W.O. also objects that it would deprive the Captain of the chance of fining the soldiers for any military offence. But they can learn the Admiralty system; and whilst there are other ways of “doing” the soldiers, their pay is the only means of providing bread for their families starving (or doing worse) at home. Surely the soldiers might be allowed to leave, for the probable duration of their voyage, and for a month or two beyond it, a sum to be paid weekly to their representatives at home. Sir E. Lugard has been tried and failed. Pray set this right. But the W.O. would not be the W.O., if such things as these were not. And when they have ceased to be, the War Office will have ceased to be.

Satire was not the only weapon which Miss Nightingale employed in order to get things done. Sometimes she appealed to the motive of rivalry. Was the Minister hanging back? Well, all she could say was that Sidney Herbert would have done the thing in a moment. There were difficulties in the way, were there? The subordinate officials were piling up what they were pleased to call “reasons” to the contrary, were they? Well, “on this day many years ago,” she wrote (June 18, 1862), “the French guns kept coming up again and again to get us out of the yard at Hougomont, and we answered in strong language, often repeated, till we kept the ground that we had won. I never heard the French guns called reasons. And I advise you[73] to answer in the same way, because there is no other way of answering. Lord de Grey's Minute is the gun which just has to be fired over again.” And sometimes she resorted, as of old, to a little bullying. “I send you,” she wrote (March 26, 1863), “my protest about the Medical School. Make what use of it you like. But, if we fail, I shall refer it to Lord Palmerston who, as you know, befriended us on a former occasion (after Hawes's death)”—a home thrust, this, as it was by a personal reference to Lord Palmerston that she had secured Captain Galton's appointment.

There was one occasion when, for a wonder, the pressure to be prompt and decided came not from her, but from the War Office. The Governorship of the Woolwich Hospital fell vacant; she had been sent a list of names with a request to advise upon them, and she had not immediately replied. “I wrote,” she explained (Feb. 11, 1863), “to various authorities the very moment your and Lord de Grey's letters were put into my hands. The answers cannot be long delayed. But what would you think of my opinion if I volunteered it about men whom I know only by name? Had you asked me about Lord William Paulet or Colonel Storks or Sir Richard Airey, I could have given you an opinion off-hand with the utmost want of modesty. The very moment I have any reliable information you shall have it. But it takes some time to make such an inquiry, or what would it be worth? And Woolwich, I suppose, is not on fire, or with the enemy at the gates?” But for some reason or other, the War Office was in a hurry, and the appointment was made before her inquiries were completed. Her conscientiousness thus lost her the chance of deciding a piece of patronage. Not, indeed, that she felt any loss in such a case. She was nothing of a jobber. She pulled wires, as I have told, in some special appointments where she believed that a high public cause was at stake; but she was never actuated by personal favouritism, or by the love of personal influence on behalf of individuals. For this very post, she had received fifty letters of application, she said, but she had taken no action upon them. Only once, she said on another occasion, had she solicited anything as a personal favour from the War Office. It was an appointment[74] for a Presbyterian Chaplain, who was not personally known to her, but whose hard and deserving case (as she thought it) had been brought to her notice. She was once sent a list of the Army Medical Service, and asked by a Minister to mark the names, for his private and confidential use, with her approbation or otherwise. This she respectfully declined to do. When she was asked a specific question about an officer whom she had known in the Crimea or elsewhere, she gave an opinion freely, and generally managed to put it pointedly; as of a certain Commandant: “As you often see in those round-headed, red-faced men, he has a great deal of conscience and very little judgment.”


A subject, in which Miss Nightingale took great and painful interest during these years, was the State regulation of vice. The legislation of 1864, 1866, and 1869 was already being promoted and considered in 1862. The subject was odious to Miss Nightingale, but her experiences in foreign hospitals and at Scutari had made her peculiarly familiar with it. Her private correspondence with doctors and military officers shows that for some years before 1862 she had given much thought and study to the question, and had carefully tested conclusions drawn from her personal observations by statistics and by the opinions of other persons. She hated the system of regulation on moral grounds, but she was equally convinced that the case for it had not been satisfactorily established by statistical evidence on hygienic grounds. On this point, two of the medical men, upon whose judgment she placed most reliance—Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Graham Balfour (the head of the Army Statistical Department)—agreed with her. With their assistance she worked up the case against the continental system, and at the request of Sir George Lewis, who was considering the matter in 1862, she wrote a private paper, which was circulated among some members of the Government and others. “Your facts,” wrote Captain Galton to her (April 29, 1862), “have shaken Lord de Grey's views on the subject of police inspection.” With Mr. Gladstone, she was less successful.[75] He found her Paper “of deep interest and full of important fact and argument,” and said that, as a result of reading it and her letters, he should approach the subject “with much of circumspection as well as of anxiety”; but he “doubted the possibility of making a standing army a moral institution.” Therein she profoundly differed, and she urged, in rejoinder, that nothing should be done on his assumption, at least until the other had been given a fair trial—by increasing the soldiers' facilities for marriage, by giving them better opportunities for instruction and recreation, by encouraging physical exercise and manual handicrafts. Official opinion steadily hardened, however, in the direction of regulation; and presently public opinion was tested by a series of articles in the Times in favour of the continental system. Miss Nightingale thereupon supplied Harriet Martineau with facts and figures, and the Times was answered by the Daily News. Miss Nightingale also printed her own Paper for a more extended, though still “private and confidential,” circulation. Dr. Sutherland chivalrously assumed the sole authorship, and was acrimoniously attacked by some of his professional brethren. The Army Medical Department was working hard for regulation, and some person therein, suspecting Miss Nightingale as the real leader of the opposition, disgraced himself by sending her an anonymous letter of vulgar abuse. This of course did not deter her, and, when legislation was proposed, she lobbied indefatigably (through correspondence) against it. The opinion of the House of Commons was, however, overwhelmingly in its favour. When the legislation was passed, the War Office invited her assistance in the selection of medical officers under the Act; but she refused to touch what she regarded as an accursed thing. It was left to another of the remarkable women of the nineteenth century, to secure, after a struggle of sixteen years, the repeal of the Acts; but though Miss Nightingale shrank from taking a public part in that crusade, she gave support privately to Mrs. Josephine Butler. At a later time, however, Miss Nightingale somewhat modified her views.[54]

Miss Nightingale's failure during the years 1862–64[76] to arrest the movement of public opinion in the direction which she detested, increased her eagerness to promote what she considered the more excellent way. She was the life and soul at headquarters of the movement for increasing the supply of Reading-rooms, Soldiers' Clubs, Recreation-rooms, and facilities for useful employment. “I will tell you,” she wrote to the Reverend Mother of the Bermondsey Convent (Jan. 3, 1864), “how I spent my Christmas Day and the Sunday after, those being two holidays: in preparing a scheme, by desire of Lord de Grey, for employing soldiers in trades.” She wrote a Memorandum on “Methods of Starting an Exhibition (Soldiers' Trades),” and such an exhibition was held at Aldershot in the summer of 1864.[55] Whenever there was a difficulty to be overcome, or an opportunity to be seized, Miss Nightingale was appealed to. For instance, there was a fight for a certain disused Iron House at Aldershot. Miss Nightingale's party (supported at the War Office) wanted it for a Men's Recreation Room; the Horse Guards wanted it for an Officers' Club. A promise had already been given in favour of the former, but Sir George Lewis was wavering. “Lord de Grey thinks,” wrote Captain Galton (April 29, 1862), “that the best course for the Iron House is for Sir H. Verney to ask Sir G. L. in the House about it, alluding to his former promise, and if it could be arranged that Monckton Milnes, Gen. Lindsay, or any other persons could cheer or support the proposals, it would pledge Sir G. L. to act at once.” Miss Nightingale set her parliamentary friends to work, and the fight for the Iron House was won. Lord de Grey succeeded in getting a vote on the Estimates for the encouragement of such places. Miss Nightingale revised for him a set of Regulations for Reading-Rooms. She also, at his request, drew up (in concert with Captain Pilkington Jackson) an inventory of the appropriate furniture and other fitments. Her zeal in this matter was known abroad; at Montreal and Halifax and Gibraltar commanding-officers who were trying to start or develop instructions of the kind applied to her. She often succeeded in obtaining War Office grants for them, and[77] these she supplemented by gifts of her own. No inconsiderable portion of her resources at this time went in subscriptions of this sort, either in money or in kind (carpentering equipment, bagatelle boards, books, prints, and the like). It is pleasant to read the letters in which the non-commissioned officers and men of regiments, which had been served by Miss Nightingale in the Crimea, sent thanks, through their commanding officers, to “that noble lady for her continued interest in the welfare of the British soldiers.”

It was a cause of great pleasure to Miss Nightingale that in 1864 her old friend of the Scutari days, General Storks, who had encouraged her there in work of this kind,[56] was appointed to the command at Malta. “I am very grateful to you,” he wrote (Nov. 10), “for seeing me the other day, and can only express the great gratification I experienced on that occasion. I can never forget the time when I was associated with you in the great work which has produced such satisfactory results, and for which the whole army will ever thank you. When one reflects on the condition of the soldier ten years ago and what it is now, there is cause for wonder at the difficulties you have overcome, and the results you have achieved.… (Nov. 18.) All the arrangements contemplated at Malta, both legislative (if necessary) and administrative, shall be submitted for your consideration and approval in draft before they are acted upon, and I need not say how grateful I shall be for your kind assistance.” In later years Miss Nightingale took a friendly interest in the Soldiers' Institute at Portsmouth, founded by Miss Sarah Robinson. A meeting was held in its support at the Mansion House in 1877, at which Lord Wolseley presided, and a letter from Miss Nightingale was read. “If you knew,” she said, “as I do (or once did), the difference between our soldiers cared for in body, mind, and morals, and our soldiers uncared for—the last, ‘hell's carnival’ (the words are not my own), the first, the finest fellows of God's making; if you knew how troops immediately on landing are beset with invitations to bad of all kinds, you would hasten to supply them with invitations to, and means for, good of all kinds: remembering that the soldier is of[78] all men the man whose life is made for him by the necessities of his Service. We may not hope to make ‘saints’ of all, but we can make men of them instead of brutes. If you knew these things as I do, you would forgive me for asking you, if my poor name may still be that of the soldiers' ever faithful servant, to support Miss Robinson's work in making men of them at Portsmouth, the place of all others of temptation to be brutes.”


Even the multifarious interest described in preceding pages and chapters do not tell the whole tale of Miss Nightingale's labours during this time. It was not only the British soldiers at home and in India whom she took under her protection; nor only the War Office and the India Office with which she had some connection. She was open to any human appeal for help, and her acquaintance with Sir George Grey led her, through a friendly Minister at the Colonial Office, to make an attempt for the protection of the aboriginal races in the British Dominions. She had met Sir George Grey in 1859 and 1860, and he had talked to her about the gradual disappearance of those races when brought into touch with civilization. This was a subject which appealed strongly to Miss Nightingale. Her mission in life was to be a “saviour” of men. It shamed her to think that her country in colonizing so large a part of the world should so often come into contact with inferior races only to destroy them. In the course of conversation with Sir George Grey, the question was raised whether the disappearance of the aboriginal races was in any degree due to the effect of European school usages and school education. Miss Nightingale determined to investigate the matter. She drew up schedules of inquiry, and the Duke of Newcastle (then Colonial Secretary) officially circulated them to Colonial Schools and Colonial Hospitals (1860). As each return came in during following years, it was forwarded from the Colonial Office to Miss Nightingale. Her inquiries were far more searching and detailed, I notice on looking through the papers, than were the answers. There were not many passionate statisticians in those days among the schoolmasters[79] or doctors attached to native schools or hospitals in distant colonies, and the results of Miss Nightingale's researches in this obscure field were somewhat disappointing. She summarized the information in a Paper which she contributed to the Social Science Congress at Edinburgh in 1863, and which she printed as a pamphlet.[57] The Duke of Newcastle sent the pamphlet to colonial governors and other officials, and invited their remarks. To the Congress in 1864 Miss Nightingale contributed a further Paper (also printed as a pamphlet[58]), embodying the substance of some of the later information thus obtained. The documents which she received from the Colonial Office during several years are preserved amongst her papers, and form what is, I suppose, a unique collection of information on a curious subject. Though her researches did not lead to any positive conclusions in relation to the effect of education as such upon the deterioration of the wild races, they disclosed much neglect of sanitary precautions. She pointed out mistakes that were made in the kind of clothing into which in the name of decency the native children were put. She applied in a wider way the principle that their open-air habits should be remembered, insisting especially on the importance of physical and manual training. The returns from colonial hospitals showed again that preventable causes—bad drainage, bad water, and so forth—were to blame for much of the mortality. “Incivilization with its inherent diseases, when brought into contact with civilization without adopting specific precautions for preserving health, will always carry with it a large increase of mortality on account of the greater susceptibility of its subjects to those causes of disease which can, to a certain extent, be endured without as great a risk by civilized communities born among them.” But principally Miss Nightingale based upon the results of her inquiries a moral appeal to the conscience of popular opinion and governments in the Colonies and in Downing Street. “The decaying races are chiefly in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and perhaps in certain parts of South Africa. They appear to consist chiefly of tribes which have never been civilized enough, or had force of character[80] enough, to form fixed settlements or to build towns. Such tribes have few fixed habits or none. But the papers show that they are naturally, in their uncivilized condition, possessed of far stronger stamina, and that they resist the effects of frightful wounds and injuries far better than civilized men. This latter fact tells strongly against any natural proclivity to diseased action.” The course of history does not show that such appeals as Miss Nightingale's have been wholly successful. It seems to be, as Mr. Froude said, that with men, as with orders of creation, only those wild races will survive who can domesticate themselves into servants of the newer forms. Where there is such ability, where the labour of the coloured races is required by the white men, the aboriginal races survive, and even thrive and multiply; where those conditions do not exist, they do not survive. So far, however, as the extinction of native races has been arrested, Miss Nightingale was among the pioneers in pointing out the way. Her clear intelligence, acting upon the mass of evidence which she had collected, perceived certain principles which have guided all practical statesmen who sought to protect aborigines, and to free civilization from one of its disgraces. She urged that “provision of land should be made for the exclusive use of existing tribes.” She pleaded passionately for the suppression of the liquor traffic.[59] She argued that in the formal education, and in all other means of endeavouring to improve the natives, “there should be as little interference as possible with their born habits and conditions,” that interference should be wise and gradual, and that above all “physical training and a large amount of out-door work are essentially necessary to success.” She did not succeed in arresting the decline of the aboriginal races; but she contributed something to their protection.



Thus, then, in all the various ways described in this chapter did Miss Nightingale labour, but especially in the cause of the British Army. The rôle of the Soldiers' Friend which she had filled in the Crimea was enacted on a conspicuous stage. Her work was now all done behind the scenes; and done, as I have already described, under heavy physical disability. Much of the work was, moreover, dull and even uncongenial; but she fed her soul on higher things:—

(Miss Nightingale to Mrs. Moore.) 32 South Street, Dec. 15 [1863]. Dearest Revd. Mother—I am here, as you see—(My brother-in-law's house—where you were so good as to see me last year—to think of that being more than a year ago) and have been here a good bit. But I have had all your dear letters. And you cannot think how much they have encouraged me. They are almost the only earthly encouragement I have. I have been so very ill—and even the little change of moving here knocks me down for a month. But God is so good as to let me still struggle on with my business. But with so much difficulty that it was quite impossible to me to write even to you. And I only write now, because I hear you are ill. I have felt so horribly ungrateful for never having thanked you for your books. S. Jean de la Croix's life I keep thankfully. I am never tired of reading that part where he prays for the return for all his services, Domine, pati et contemni pro te. I am afraid I never could ask that. But in return for very little service, I get it. It is quite impossible to describe how harassing, how heart-breaking my work has been since the beginning of July. I have always, with all my heart and soul, offered myself to God for the greatest bitterness on my own part, if His (War Office) work could be done. But lately nothing was done, and always because there was not one man like Sidney Herbert to do it.… I don't think S. Jean de la Croix need have prayed to be dismissed from superiorships before he died. For as the Mère de Bréchard says, there are more opportunities to humble oneself, to mortify oneself, to throw oneself entirely on God, in them than in anything else. I return the life of S. Catherine of Genoa. I like it so much. It is a very singular and suggestive life. I am so glad she accepted the being Directress of the Hospital. For I think it was much better for her to make the Hospital servants go right than to receive their “injures”—however[82] submissively—much better for the poor Patients, I mean.

I am quite ashamed to keep Ste. Thérése so long. But there is a good deal of reading in her. And I am only able to read at night—and then not always a large, close-printed book. Pray say if I shall send her back. And I will borrow her again from you perhaps some day. I am so sorry about poor S. Gonzaga's troubles. I know what those Committees are. I have had to deal with them almost all my life.

My strength has failed more than usually of late. And I don't think I have much more work in me—not, at least, if it is to continue of this harassing sort. God called me to Hospital work (as I fondly thought, for life)—but since then to Army work—but with a promise that I should go back to Hospital—as I thought as a Nurse, but as I now think, as a Patient. But St. Catherine of Siena says: “Et toutesfois je permets cela luy advenir, afin qu'il soit plus soigneux de fuyr soi mesme, & de venir & recourir à moy … et qu'il considère que par amour je luy donne le moyen de tirer hors le chef de la vraye humilité, se reputant indigne de la paix & repos de pensée, comme mes autres serviteurs—& au contraire se reputant digne des peines qu'il souffre,” etc.

My sister and her family come to spend here two or three nights occasionally to see friends. But I was only able to see her for ten minutes, and my good brother-in-law, who is one of the best and kindest of men, not at all—nor his children.… I sent you back St. Francis de Sales, with many thanks. I liked him in his old dress. I like that story where the man loses his crown of martyrdom, because he will not be reconciled with his enemy. It is a sound lesson. I am going to send you back S. Francis Xavier. His is a life I always like to study as well as those of all the early Jesuit fathers. But how much they did—and how little I do.… Ever my dearest Revd. Mother's loving and grateful, F. N.

Miss Nightingale never lost sight of the end in the means. She was doing “God's work” in the “War Office.” She thought it was “little” that she did, for it is often the hardest workers who thus deem themselves the most unprofitable servants. And the work was often drudgery; yet through it all she had inspiration from her memories of heroism in the Army, for whose “salvation” she was working. “I have seen to-day [from my window],” she wrote to her mother in 1863, “the first Levée, since all are dead whom I wished to please. A melancholy sight to me.[83] Yet I like the pomp and pageant of the old veterans covered with well-earned crosses. To me who saw them earned, no vain pageant. It is like the Dead March in Saul—to me, who heard it on the battle-field, no vain sound, but full of deep and glorious sadness.”




To be alone is nothing; but to be without sympathy in a crowd, this is to be confined in solitude. Where there is want of sympathy, of attraction, given and returned, must it not be a feeling of starvation?—Florence Nightingale: Suggestions for Thought (1860).

Friendship should help the friends to work out better the work of life.—Benjamin Jowett (1866).

The years of Miss Nightingale's life, described in this Part, were perhaps those of her hardest and most unremitting work. Throughout these years, until August 1866, she lived entirely in London or immediately near to it.[60] Her quarters were in lodgings or in hired houses, until November 1865, when her father took a house for her for a term of years in South Street (No. 35), near her married sister. This house (No. 10 when the street was renumbered) was the one that she occupied till her death. I think that there was not a single day during the period from 1862 to 1866 upon which she was not engaged in one part or another of the manifold work described in preceding chapters. And there was much other work as well, begun in these years, but brought to completion later, which will be described in a subsequent Part. She gave account of her days to Madame Mohl (Jan. 24, 1865), and recalled what “a poor woman with 13 children, who took in washing, once said to me—her idea of heaven was to have one hour a day in which she[85] could do nothing.” Yet all that Miss Nightingale did was done forcefully. “I am completely reassured as to the state of your health,” wrote her old friend Mr. Reeve (Jan. 21, 1865), in reply to some communication on Indian affairs, “by the Homeric frame of mind you are in. You will live an hundred years. You will write a Sanitariad or a Lawrentiad in 24 books, and Lord Derby will translate you into all known languages. Stanley will be Lord Derby then, but this will only make the thing more appropriate.” But her work, though very vigorous, was very hard. It was done, not as in the Crimean war, in the excitement of immediate action, nor, as in the years succeeding her return, with the daily aid and sympathy of her “dear Master.” It was her hardest work for another reason, already mentioned: she was for a large part of this later period, almost bedridden. She would get up and dress in order to receive the more important of her men-visitors, but the effort tired her greatly.

The amount of work which she did under these conditions is extraordinary, and the question arises how she did it. A principal explanation is to be found in Dr. Sutherland. The reader may have noticed once or twice in letters written by Miss Nightingale such expressions as “We are doing” so and so, or “Can such and such be sent to us.” The plural was not royal; it signified she had explained at an earlier time to Sidney Herbert, “the troops and me;” but it also signified, during the years with which this Part is concerned, herself and Dr. Sutherland. She wrote incessantly, but even so she could hardly have accomplished her daily tasks without some clerical assistance. She knew an immense deal about the subjects with which she dealt, and her memory was both precise and tenacious; but there were limits to her powers of acquisition, and cases often arose in which personal inspection or personal moving about in search of information were essential. In all these ways Dr. Sutherland's help was constant. He wielded a ready pen. He was one of the leading sanitary experts of the day. His professional and official connections gave him access to various sources of information. His regular work was on the Army Sanitary Commission; and for the rest, he placed himself at Miss Nightingale's beck[86] and call. Mrs. Sutherland was her private secretary at this time for household affairs, such as searching for lodgings and engaging servants; her accounts were still kept, and much of her miscellaneous correspondence conducted by her uncle, Mr. Sam Smith;[61] but in all official business, her factotum was Dr. Sutherland. A large proportion of the notes, drafts, and memoranda, belonging to these years, among her papers, is in Dr. Sutherland's handwriting, and sometimes it is impossible to determine how much of the work is hers and how much his. Often he took down heads from her conversation, and put the matter into shape; at other times he submitted drafts for her approval or correction, and took copies of the letters ultimately dispatched.

How indispensable to her was Dr. Sutherland's help comes out from some correspondence of 1865. Captain Galton had sent private word that there was talk at the War Office of appointing Dr. Sutherland Commissioner to inquire into an outbreak of cholera at some of the Mediterranean Stations. Miss Nightingale was greatly perturbed. “We are full of Indian business,” she wrote (Nov. 1), “which must be settled before Parliament meets. Lord Stanley has consented to take it up. And I have pledged myself to have it all ready—a thing I should never have done if I had thought Dr. Sutherland would be sent abroad. You are yourself aware that Calcutta water-supply has been sent home to us (at my request), and Dr. S. told me this morning that he and I should have to write the Report.” And again (Dec. 15): “For God's sake, if you can, prevent Dr. Sutherland going.” She had begged that at any rate nothing should be said to Dr. Sutherland himself about it unless the mission were irrevocably decided upon: “he is so childish that if he heard of this Malta and Gibraltar business he would instantly declare there was nothing to keep him in England.” The “child”—the “baby” of some earlier correspondence[62]—only liked a little change sometimes. Indispensable though he was to his task-mistress, he yet,[87] as in former days, vexed her. She thought him lacking in method, and with her this was one of the unpardonable sins. He sometimes forgot what he had done with, or had promised to do with, a particular Paper; he was even capable of mislaying a Blue-book. He was often behind hand with tasks imposed upon him. His temperament was a little volatile, and in one impeachment he is accused of “incurable looseness of thought.” If this were so (which I take leave to doubt), the defect must have been congenital, or long service under Miss Nightingale would have cured it.

Partly because Dr. Sutherland's manner sometimes teased her, partly because he was deaf, and partly owing to her own physical disabilities, Miss Nightingale developed at this time a method of communicating with him which, during later years, became familiar to all but her most privileged friends. The visitor on being admitted was ushered into a sitting-room on the ground-floor, and given pencil and paper. It were well for him that what he wrote should be lucid and concise. The message was carried upstairs into the Presence, and an answer, similarly written, was brought down. And to such interchange would the interview be confined. With Dr. Sutherland, Miss Nightingale had many personal interviews; their business was often too detailed, too intricate, too confidential, to be conducted otherwise; but there are hundreds of letters, received from other people, upon which (in blank spaces or on spare sheets) there are pencilled notes conveying answers or messages to Dr. Sutherland. “Well, you know I have already said that to Lord Stanley. I can't do more.” “Yes, you must.” “Oh, Lord bless you, No.” “You want me to decide in order that you may do the reverse.” “Can you answer a plain question?” “You have forgotten all we talked about.” “I cannot flatter you on your lucidity.” “I do not shake hands till the Abstract is done; and I do not leave London till it is done.” “You told me positively there was nothing to be done. There is everything to be done.” “Why did you tell me that tremendous banger? Was it to prevent my worrying you?” “Nothing has been done. I have been so anxious; but the more zeal I feel, the more indifferent you.” Sometimes he strikes work, or[88] refuses to answer, signing his name by a drawing of a dry pump with a handle marked “F.N.”: “Your pump is dry. India to stand over.” Sometimes he makes fun of her business-like methods, and heads his notes “Ref.000000/000.” Sometimes he pleads illness. “I am very sorry, but I was too ill to know anything except that I was ill.” Often he received visitors for her, or entertained them on her behalf at luncheon or dinner. “These two people have come. Will you see them for me? I have explained who you are.” “Was the luncheon good? Did he eat?” “Did he walk?” “Yes.” “Then he's a liar; he told me he couldn't move.” In 1865–66 Dr. and Mrs. Sutherland had moved house from Finchley to Norwood. Miss Nightingale complained of this remoteness. Dr. Sutherland dated his letters from “The Gulf.” He stayed there sometimes, complaining of indisposition, instead of coming up to South Street where business was pressing. Miss Nightingale did not take the reason kindly, and his letters begin, “Respected Enemy” or “Dear howling epileptic Friend.” One morning (June 23, 1865) Dr. Sutherland went to the private view of the Herbert Hospital—a great occasion to Miss Nightingale. In the afternoon he called and sent up to her a short note of what he had seen. “And that is all you condescend to tell me. And I get it at 4 o'clock.” Of course, they understood each other; they were old and intimate friends. But I think that the man who thus served with Miss Nightingale must have had a great and disinterested zeal for the causes in which they were engaged; and that there must have been something at once formidable and fascinating in the Lady-in-Chief.


The pressure of work during these years caused Miss Nightingale to close her doors resolutely. She did indeed see her father often; her mother and sister occasionally, though she did not press them to come. Other relations and many of her friends felt aggrieved that she would not accept help which they would have liked to give. But she had a rule of life to which she adhered firmly. There was so much strength available, likely enough (as she still supposed) to[89] be ended by early death; there was so much public work to be done; there was no strength to spare for family or friends, except in so far as they helped, and did not hinder, the public work. She saw nurses and matrons from time to time: they were parts of her life-work. She saw Lady Herbert and Mrs. Bracebridge: they were parts of her work in the past. She never omitted to write to Lady Herbert on the anniversary of Lord Herbert's death, though their friendship lost something of its former intimacy when in 1865 Lady Herbert joined the Church of Rome. Other friends were seldom admitted. Letters to an old friend, who was sometimes received and sometimes turned away, explain Miss Nightingale's point of view:—

(To Madame Mohl.) 115 Park Street, July 30 [1864]. You will be doing me a favour if you come to me. August 2 is a terrible anniversary to me. And I shall not have my usual solace, for Mrs. Bracebridge has always come to spend that day with me, and I am sure she would have come this year, but I could not tell whether I should be able to get Sir John Lawrence's things off by that time. It does me good to be with you, as with Mrs. Clive, because it reduces individual struggles to general formulæ. It does me harm, intensely alone as I am, to be with people who do the reverse. But it is incorrect to say, as Mrs. Clive does, that “I will not let people help me,” or, as others do, that “no one can help me.” Any body could have helped me who knew how to read and write and what o'clock it is.

June 23 [1865], South Street. Clarkey Mohl Darling—How I should like to see you now. But it is quite, quite, quite impossible. I am sure no one ever gave up so much to live, who longed so much to die, as I do and give up daily. It is the only credit I claim. I will live if I can. I shall be so glad if I can't. I am overwhelmed with business. And I have an Indian functionary now in London, whose work is cut out for him every day at my house. I scarcely even have half an hour's ease. Would you tell M. Mohl this, if you are writing, about the Queen of Holland's proposed visit to me? I really feel it a great honour that she wishes to see me. She is a Queen of Queens. But it is quite, quite, quite impossible.… (Oct. 4 [1865]). I am so weak, no one knows how weak I am. Yesterday because I saw Dr. Sutherland for a few minutes in the afternoon, after the morning's work, and my good Mrs. Sutherland for a few minutes after him, I was with a spasm of the heart till 7 o'clock this morning and nearly unfit for work all to-day.

In the case of one distinguished visitor to London, Miss[90] Nightingale made an exception. This was Garibaldi. She was a sworn Garibaldian, as we have heard. He wished to see her; she was famous in Italy, and she had subscribed to his funds. Friends told her that she might be able to influence the hero in the direction of her own interests, and with some trepidation she prepared herself to receive him. “I think,” wrote Mr. Jowett, “that we may trust God to give us his own calmness and clearness on any great occasion such as this is. I hope you will inspire Garibaldi for the future and not pain him too much about the past. Ten years more of such a life as his might accomplish almost anything for Italy in the way of military organization and sanitary and moral improvement—if he could only see that his duty is not to break the yet immature strength of Italy against Austrian fortresses.” Miss Nightingale prepared for the “great occasion” by jotting down in French what she would try to say. “Eh bien! in five years you have made Italy—the work of five centuries. You have worked a miracle. But even you, mon Général, could not make a steam-engine in five minutes. And Italy has to be consolidated into a strong machine, like those which you have been seeing at Bedford,” and so forth, and so forth. She tried to keep the fact of the interview secret, but it was chronicled in the newspapers[63]:—

(Miss Nightingale to Harriet Martineau.) 115 Park St., April 28 [1864]. You may have heard that I have seen Garibaldi. I resisted it with all my might, but I was obliged to do it. I asked no one to look at him—told no one—and he came in my brother-in-law's carriage, hoping that no one would know. But it all failed. We had a long interview by ourselves. I was more struck with the greatness of that noble heart—full of bitterness, yet not bitter—and with the smallness of the administrative capacity, than even I expected. He raves for a Government “like the English.” But he knows no more what it is than his King Bomba did. (It was for this that I was to speak to him.) One year of such a life, as I have led for ten years, would tell him more of how one has to give and take with a[91] “representative Government” than all his Utopia and his “ideal.” You will smile. But he reminds me of Plato. He talks about the “ideal good” and the “ideal bad”; about his not caring for “repubblica” or for “monarchia”: he only wants “the right.” Alas! alas! What a pity—that utter impracticability! I pity me very much. And of all my years, this last has been the hardest. But now I see that no man would have put up with what I have put up with for ten years, to do even the little I have done—which is about a hundredth part of what I have tried for. Garibaldi looks flushed and very ill, worn and depressed—not excited. He looks as if he stood and went thro' all this as he stood under the bullets of Aspromonte—a duty which he was here to perform. The madness of the Italians here in urging him is inconceivable.

Miss Nightingale, we may safely infer, did not inspire Garibaldi with divine fervour for sanitary reform or any merely administrative progress. Administration in any sort was foreign to his genius. But she felt, after the interview no less than before, that it was a great occasion to her. The interview took place at 115 Park Street, a house belonging to the Grosvenor Hotel, and she presented the Hotel with a bust of Garibaldi as a memento of the occasion.

Another of her heroes was Abraham Lincoln, of whom she wrote this appreciation[64]:—

34 South Street, June 20 [1865]. Dear Sir—I have not dared to press in with my feeble word of sympathy upon your over-taxed time and energy, when all Europe was pouring in upon you with its heartfelt sympathy. My experience has been infinitesimally small. Still, small as it is, it has been of historical events. And I can never remember the time—not even when the colossal calamity of the Crimea was first made known to us,—not even when we lost our own Albert (and our Albert was no common hero—remember that it was no Sovereign, but it was Washington, whom he held up as an example to himself and his)—I can never remember the time when so deep and strong a cry of feeling has gone up from the world, in all its length and breadth, and in all its classes, as has gone up for you and yours—in your great trial: Mr. Lincoln's death. As some one said of him, he will hold “the purest and the greatest place in history.” I trust and believe that the deed which will spring up from that[92] noble grave will be worthy of it. I will not take up your time with weak expression of a deep sympathy. Sincerely yours, Florence Nightingale.

At home, the political event which most moved her was the death of Lord Palmerston:—

(Miss Nightingale to Dr. Farr.) 34 South Street, Oct. 19 [1865] Ld. Palmerston is a great loss. I speak for the country and myself. He was a powerful protector to me—especially since Sidney Herbert's death. I never asked him to do anything—you may be sure I did not ask him often—but he did it—for the last nine years. He did not do himself justice. If the right thing was to be done, he made a joke, but he did it. He will not leave his impress on the age—but he did the country good service. Except L. Napoleon, whose death might be the greatest good or the greatest evil, I doubt whether there is any man's loss which will so affect Europe.… He was at heart the most liberal man we had left. I have lost, in him, a powerful friend. I hear spoken of as his successors—Clarendon, Russell, Granville. Ld. Clarendon it is said the Queen wishes—and she has been corresponding with him privately—perhaps by Ld. Palmerston's own desire. But I believe the real question is, under which (if any) of these, your Mr. Gladstone will consent to remain in office and be Leader of the Ho. of C. Not one of these men will manage the cabinet as Ld. Palmerston did. But I daresay you have more trustworthy information than I have. I would Ld. Palmerston had lived another Session. We should have got something done at the Poor Law Board, which we shall not now.[65] Ld. Russell is so queer-tempered. I quite dread his Premiership, if it comes.


Miss Nightingale's interest in the working classes led her in 1865 to draft a scheme which, in some aspects of it, forestalled ideas of a later generation of social reformers. Mr. Gladstone had recently passed an Act enabling a depositor's accumulations in the Post Office Savings Bank to be invested in the purchase either of an Annuity or an Insurance. It would be very advisable, she suggested, to add to these methods of saving facilities for the purchase of small freeholds. There was nothing that the working men more[93] coveted than the ownership of a house or a piece of land. An extension of small ownership would satisfy a legitimate craving, increase the motives to thrift, and raise the social position and independence of the working classes. If the adoption of the scheme would necessitate the enfranchisement of leaseholds, so much the better. Such were Miss Nightingale's ideas, and under different forms and by different methods they have occupied the attention of social reformers to this day. She submitted her scheme to Mr. Villiers, President of the Poor Law Board, who seems to have been somewhat favourable to it. Then she tackled the Chancellor of the Exchequer, artfully suggesting that her scheme was merely, on the one hand, a slight development of his “most successful Savings Bank measures,” and, on the other, an indirect means of meeting his earnest desire to extend the suffrage. But Mr. Gladstone was not to be cajoled. “It would not do,” he told her, “for Government to become land-jobbers”—an opinion which has not been shared, it would seem, by some of Mr. Gladstone's successors. He had further suggested that the scheme should be submitted, in its legal aspects, to his friend Mr. Roundell Palmer, and Mr. Palmer, after reading it, opined that the law already gave adequate facilities for the purchase of freeholds by working men and others. Miss Nightingale then took other legal opinions with a view to meeting objections; but she presently gave up this addition to her schemes. “It was certainly,” she said, “the wildest of ideas for me to undertake it just now when I can scarcely do what I have already undertaken.”


Though Miss Nightingale saw little of her friends or relations at this time, she constantly corresponded with them. There are many letters which tell of her grief at the death of her cousin, Miss Hilary Bonham Carter: “the golden bowl is broken,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (Sept. 8, 1865), “and it was the very purest gold I have ever known.” There are letters from many correspondents—Lady Augusta Bruce, for instance, and Mrs. William Cowper—which show how deeply they had been touched by Miss Nightingale's[94] letters of condolence. Her own griefs left room for sympathy with those of others:—

(To Dr. Farr.) Hampstead, August 5 [1864].… I am sorry to hear of your griefs. I do not find that mine close my heart to those of others—and I should be more than anxious to hear of yours—you who have been our faithful friend for so many years. I had heard of your father's death, but not of any other loss. Sidney Herbert has been dead three years on the 2nd. And these three years have been nothing but a slow undermining of all he has done (at the W.O.). This is the bitterest grief. The mere personal craving after a beloved presence I feel as nothing. A few years at most, and that will be over. But the other is never over. For me, I look forward to pursuing God's work soon in another of his worlds. I do not look forward with any craving to seeing again those I have lost (in the very next world)—sure that that will all come in His own good time—and sure of my willingness to work in whichever of His worlds I am most wanted, with or without those dear fellow-workers, as He pleases. But this does not at all soothe the pain of seeing men wantonly deface the work here of some of His best workers. But I shall bear your faith in mind—that good works never really die. Alas! good Tulloch. But I think his work was done. Pray, if you speak of him, remember—had it not been for him, where would our two Army Sanitary enquiries have been?

Miss Nightingale's large circle of correspondents kept her in touch with the literary, as well as with the political, world. She suffered greatly from sleeplessness and read much at night. She seldom read a book without finding something original or characteristic to say about it. “Lately,” she wrote to M. Mohl (Jan. 24, 1865), “I have read an English translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The way it interests me is theologically. Otherwise he seems a poor weak mixture of Mahomet and a Mephistopheles. But the arguments which he despises seem to me just the real arguments, the only arguments, if only we believe in a Perfect God, for eternal existence. Do tell me a little about this, and about the Sufis and Firdausi—as regards their belief in a God, and whether the God was good or bad, if any.” Omar was new to M. Mohl. Miss Nightingale lent him Fitz-Gerald's version,[66] and M. Mohl[95] read the original. “The tidings,” she wrote (April 21), “that you may perhaps print Al Khayyám's quatrains is diffusing joy among a (not large but) select circle, I having communicated it in the ‘proper quarter’ (see how we are all tarred with the same official stick). If you send me a copy, I shall immediately become a personage of importance.” “I read some of Madame Roland's Memoires,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (May 20, 1865): “but, do you know, I was so disappointed to find out that her patriotism was inspired by a lover. Not that I care much about virtue: I do think ‘virtue’ by itself a very second-rate virtue. But because I did hope that here was one woman who cared for respublica as alone, or as chief, among her cares.” “Do” (to Madame Mohl, Sept. 8, 1865), “read if you have not read Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon. Forgive it its being an imitation of a Greek play. That is its worst fault. As you said of Macaulay's Lays, They are like an old man in a pinafore; or as I should say of this, It is like a Puritan togged out as a Priest going to say mass. But read it. The Atalanta herself, though she is only a sort of Ginn and not a woman at all, has more reality, more character, more individuality (to use a bad word) than all the jeunes premières in all the men novelists I ever have read—Walter Scott, Lytton Bulwer, and all of them. But then Atalanta is not a sound incarnation of any ‘social or economic principle’—is she? So men will say.”


On higher themes the correspondent to whom Miss Nightingale wrote most fully from her heart was from this time forth Mr. Jowett. Their acquaintance, at first confined to paper, had begun, as described in an earlier chapter, with correspondence about her Suggestions for Thought. The work had greatly interested him, and from time to time he continued to write to her about it. He wished her to do something with her “Suggestions,” but to rewrite them in a more connected form and a gentler mood, and he sometimes gave hints for an irony less bitter than hers. Her letters to him are no longer in existence, except in the case of a few of which she preserved copies; but it is clear from[96] the tenor of the correspondence on the other side that she was already (1862) giving to him much of her intimate confidence. She had now met a new friend who was capable of entering into her inmost and highest thoughts, not indeed always with agreement, but always with a sympathetic understanding. “As you have shown me so much confidence,” he presently wrote, “I feel the strongest wish to help you in any way that I can without intruding.” And again: “I cannot but wish you (as sincerely as I ever desired anything) unabated hope and trust and resolve to continue your work to the end, and many rays of light to cheer the way.” A little later, drawing a bow at a venture, Mr. Jowett wondered whether she was engaged about Indian sanitary matters? He had “a reason for being interested about them which is that I lost my two brothers in India.” Miss Nightingale, as we have heard, was interested in nothing else so intently at this time, and here was a fresh bond of sympathy. She asked whether, knowing what he did of her religious views, he would come and administer the Sacrament to her, as she was entirely unable to leave her room. “I shall be very glad,” he wrote (Oct. 3), “to give you the Sacrament. I am sure that many other clergymen would be equally glad. Would you like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or any of their family, to join you?” The Sacrament was often thus administered, and Miss Nightingale's most intimate friends—such as Mrs. Bracebridge—or some of her family, generally partook of the rite with her. On one of the earlier of these occasions, Mr. Jowett met her parents, and in 1862 paid the first of his visits, which afterwards became frequent, to them in the country. He often figures in their letters as “that great and good man,” or “that true saint, Mr. Jowett.” And from this date also began his frequent visits—usually many times a year—to Miss Nightingale herself; indeed he was seldom, if ever, in London without spending an afternoon with her. If she had friends staying in her house—such as M. and Madame Mohl—he would sometimes come in to dine with them.

“Dear Miss Nightingale,” wrote Mr. Jowett (Oct. 28), “I shall always regard the circumstance of having given you the Communion as a solemn event in my life which is a call[97] to devote myself to the service of God and men (if He will give me the power to do so). Your example will often come before me, especially if I have occasion to continue my work under bodily suffering. There is something that I want to say to you which I hardly know how to express.” And then followed the first of what became a long series of spiritual admonitions. Mr. Jowett had, it is clear, a very high opinion of Miss Nightingale's genius, the most sincere admiration for her self-devotion, and a deep affection for her. But he thought that she was in some ways not using her life to the best advantage, and that her state of physical and mental suffering was in some measure the result of a too impetuous temper. In letter after letter, full of a beautiful and delicate sympathy, he whispered into her ears counsels of calm, of trust, of moderation. She seems to have kept him informed of every move in her crusades, and he was constantly afraid that she would fight too fiercely or even (in this case a quite needless fear) come out into the open. “The gift of being invisible,” he wrote (April 22, 1863), “is much to be desired by any one who exercises a good influence over others. Though Deborah and Barak work together, Sisera the Captain of the Host must not suspect that he has been delivered into the hands of a woman.” “I hope” (March 1865) “that you won't leave your incognito. It would seriously injure your influence if you were known to have influence. (Did you know the Baron Stockmar whom Sir Robert Peel called one of the most influential persons in Europe? Hardly any one in England excepting Kings and Queens knew of his existence. That was a model for that sort of life.) If you answer (anonymously, as I hope, if at all), may I beg you to answer with facts only and without a trace of feeling?” When he applauds some stroke, he urges her to find rest and comfort in the victory. “All this,” he wrote (Feb. 26, 1865), “I firmly believe would not have been accomplished but for your clearness of sight and intensity of purpose. Is not this a thing to thank God about? I was reading in Grote an account of an attempted Spartan revolution in the times of Agesilaus. One of the great objects of the Ephori was to keep the Spartan youth from getting under the influence[98] of a woman (name unknown) who was stirring the rebellion. Do you not think that woman may have been you in some former state of existence?” Miss Nightingale, perhaps in some justification for her eagerness in action, opened her heart fully to Mr. Jowett about her sense of loss in Sidney Herbert's death; explaining her loneliness in work, and yet her overmastering desire to complete, while strength was still granted to her, the “joint work” of her friend and herself. “I have often felt,” he replied (Aug. 7, 1865), “what a wreck and ruin Lord Herbert's death must have been to you. You had done so much for him and he had grown so rapidly in himself and in public estimation that there seemed no limits to what he might have effected. He might have been one of the most popular and powerful Prime Ministers in this country—the man to carry us through the social and ecclesiastical questions that are springing up. And you would have had a great part in his work and filled him with every noble and useful ambition. Do not suppose that I don't feel and understand all this. (And you might have made me Dean of Christ Church: the only preferment that I would like to have, and I would have reformed the University and bullied the Canons.) But it has pleased God that all this should not be, and it must please us too, and we must carry on the struggle under greater difficulties, with more of hard and painful labour and less of success, still never flinching while life lasts.” Never flinching, but never fretting or fuming: that was the burden of Mr. Jowett's exhortations. “I sometimes think,” he had written (July 9, 1865), “that you ought seriously to consider how your work may be carried on, not with less energy, but in a calmer spirit. Think that the work of God neither hastes nor rests, and that we should go about it in the spirit of order which prevails in the world. I am not blaming the past (who would blame you who devote your life to the good of others?). But I want the peace of God to settle on the future. Perhaps you will feel that in urging this I really can form no notion of your sufferings. Alas, dear friend, I am afraid that this is true. Still I must beg you to keep your mind above them. Is that motive vain of being made perfect through suffering?” It is an idle speculation to[99] wonder whether persons who have done great things in the world would have done as much or more or better if they had been other than they were. Calm is well; but it is not always the spring of action. If Miss Nightingale had been less eager and impetuous, she might, after her return from the Crimea, have done nothing at all. But perhaps already, in moments of weariness during the battle, and increasingly as the shadows lengthened into the pensive evening of her days, she may have felt that there was some truth in the soothing counsels of Mr. Jowett's friendship.

That Miss Nightingale reciprocated his feelings of affectionate esteem is shown very clearly by the way in which she received his admonitions. She was not usually meek under even the gentlest reproaches of her friends; but, so far as Mr. Jowett's letters tell the story, she never resented anything he said; she expressed nothing but gratitude. I do not suppose that she never retorted. He advised her, as he advised everybody, to read Boswell. I gather from one of his letters that she may have reminded him of Dr. Johnson's love of a good hater, for Mr. Jowett promises to try and satisfy her a little better in that respect in the future. And, as far as it was in him to do so, he seems to have kept his word. “Hang the Hebdomadal Council,” he wrote; or, of a certain meeting of another body, “I was opposed by two fools and a knave.” There are passages about “rascals” and “rogue Elephants” and “beasts,” which are almost as downright as was Miss Nightingale herself in this sort. She returned to the full the sympathy which he gave to her. She was solicitous about his health. He promised to cut down his hours of reading, and never to work any more after midnight. “I cannot resist such a remonstrance as yours. I think that you would batter the gates of heaven or hell. Seriously, I shall think of your letter as long as I live, dear friend.” She asked to be kept informed of every move in the academical disputes which concerned him, the judgment in the case of Essays and Reviews, the dispute about the Greek Professorship, and so forth. He told her even of stupidities at College meetings—“not to be beaten,” he said of one, “even by your War Office.” “I think you are the only person,” he wrote[100] (1865), “who encourages me about my work at Oxford. I cannot be too grateful for your words.” “I am delighted,” he wrote again (Oct. 27, 1866), “to have a friend who cares two straws whether I succeeded in a matter at Oxford.” She, as is clear from his letters, wrote to him, not only about her struggles and interests, but also about his; and he, on his side, discussed all her problems. He wanted her to spend herself no longer “on conflicts with Government offices,” but to devote her mind to some literary work in which successful effect would depend only on herself. In such work, moreover, he could perhaps help her. She, on her side, would like to help him with a sermon, the preparation of which was teasing him, and there is a long draft amongst her papers of the heads of a discourse, suggested by her, on the relation of religion to politics. “I sometimes use your hints,” he had written earlier. “A pupil of mine has a passion for public life, and having the means, is likely to get into Parliament. I said to him, ‘You are a fanatic, that cannot be helped, but you must try to be a “rational fanatic.”’” Each of the friends thought very highly of the powers and services of the other. “There is nothing you might not accomplish,” he says to her. He turns off what she must have said of him with playful deprecation: “About Elijah—you must mean the Honble. Elijah Pogram. There is no other Elijah to whom I bear the least resemblance.” And each valued the friendship as a means of enabling them both to serve God more truly. “The spirit of the twenty-third Psalm and the spirit of the ninetieth Psalm should be united in our lives.”

Her friendship with Mr. Jowett was, I cannot doubt, Miss Nightingale's greatest consolation in these strenuous years. She was immersed in official drudgery, never forgetful, it is true, of the end in the means, but sorely vexed and harassed by the difficulties and disappointments of circumstance. Her friend's letters and conversation raised her above the conflict into a purer and calmer atmosphere. Not indeed that Mr. Jowett was a quietist; she would little have respected him had he been so; but though in the world, he was not of it; he was unsoiled by the dust of the great road. She had, it is true, other and yet more unworldly[101] friends—nuns in convents and matrons or nurses in hospitals. With them, too, she exchanged intimate confidences in spiritual matters; but their standpoint was not hers, and the exchange could only be with mental reservations on her part. To Mr. Jowett she was able to open unreservedly her truest thoughts. And then, too, the dearest of her other friends paid her an almost adoring worship, whilst some who were estranged offered only unsympathetic criticism. It was from Mr. Jowett alone that she heard the language of affectionate and understanding remonstrance. She heard it gladly, because she knew that it was sympathetic, and because she felt that her friend's character was attuned to her own highest ideals.

Thirty years after the date at which we have now arrived (1866), Miss Nightingale read through the hundreds of letters she had received and kept from Mr. Jowett. She made copious extracts from them in pencil, and sent several to his biographers. Many of his letters to her were included in his Life, though the name of the recipient was not disclosed. She was jealous in her life-time of the privacy of her life. She rebuked Mr. Jowett once for accepting a copy of her cousin's statuette of her. He explained that he had placed it where it would not be observed. “I consider you,” he had already written, “a sort of Royal personage, not to be gossiped about with any one.” The letters to her, hitherto published, were selected to throw light upon his views. In this Memoir, in which it has been decided to give (if it may be) a truthful picture of her life and character, I select rather those letters which show the influence of his character upon hers. The following was noted by Miss Nightingale as “one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of the whole collection”:—

Askrigg, July [1864]. I am afraid that hard-working persons are very bad correspondents, at least I know that I am, or I should have written to you long ago, which I have always a pleasure in doing. But Plato, who is either my greatest friend or my greatest enemy, and has finally swelled into three large volumes (you will observe that I am proud of the size of my baby), is to blame for preventing me. This place, at which I shall be staying for about five weeks longer, is at the head of Wensleydale, high among mountains in a most beautiful country,[102] and what, I think, adds greatly to the charm of the country, very pleasing for the simplicity and intelligence of the people. Among the enjoyments which I have here, which notwithstanding Plato are really very great, I cannot help remembering you at 115 Park Street. I wish you would venture to see something more of the sights and sounds of nature. You will never persuade me that your way of life is altogether the best for health any more than I could persuade you into Mr. Gladstone's doctrine of the salubrity of living over a churchyard.

As to the rest, I have no doubt that you could not be better than you are. I don't wish to exaggerate (for you are the last person to whom I should think of offering compliments), but I certainly believe that it has been a great national good that you have taken up the whole question of the sanitary condition of the soldier and not confined yourself to hospitals. The difficulties and stupidities would have been as great in the case of the hospitals, and the object really far inferior in importance. Besides you could never have gained the influence over medical men with their professional jealousies that you have had over the War Office and the Indian Government. Also, if your life is spared a few years longer, a great deal more may be done. There are many resources that are not yet exhausted. Therefore never listen to the voice that tells you in a moment of weariness or pain that you ought to have adhered to your old vocation.

I suppose there have been persons who have had so strong a sense of the identity of their own action with the will of God as to exclude every other feeling, who have never wished to live nor wished to die except as they fulfil his will? Can we acquire this? I don't know. But such a sense of things would no doubt give infinite rest and almost infinite power. Perhaps quietists have been most successful in gaining this sort of feeling, but the quietists are not the people who have passed all their lives rubbing and fighting against the world. But I don't see why active life might not become a sort of passive life too, passive in the hands of God and in the fulfilment of the laws of nature. I sometimes fancy that there are possibilities of human character much greater than have been realized, mysteries, as they may be called, of character and manner and style which remain to be called forth and explained. One great field for thought on this subject is the manner in which character may grow and change quite late in life.… [The rest of the letter is about the politics of the day.]

The passages which I have printed in italics are those which Miss Nightingale had specially marked. “Can we help one another,” he wrote in the following year (March 5, 1865), “to make life a higher and nobler sort of thing—more[103] of a calm and peaceful and never-ending service of God? Perhaps—a little.” The marked passages show in what way Miss Nightingale found in Mr. Jowett's friendship a source of comfort, and a fresh inspiration towards her own spiritual ideals. In her meditations of later years, a greater “passivity in action” was the state of perfection which she constantly sought to attain.

Mr. Jowett, as will have been noted, sought to reassure her about her concentration for the most part upon work for the Army and for India. And indeed she was herself intensely devoted to it, nor was it ever deposed from a principal place in her thoughts and interests. Yet there were times, as shown in a letter already quoted (p. 82), when she felt that this work, insistently though it appealed to her, though it was bound up with some of her fondest memories, was all the while, if not a kind of desertion, yet at best only a temporary call. Her first “call from God” had been to service in another sort, and she was anxious to make peace with “those first affections.” In January 1864 she sent these instructions to Mrs. Bracebridge, who directed that if Miss Nightingale should survive her they were to be handed on to Mrs. Sutherland:—

You know that I always believed it to be God's will for me that I should live and die in Hospitals. When this call He has made upon me for other work stops, and I am no longer able to work, I should wish to be taken to St. Thomas's Hospital and to be placed in a general ward (which is what I should have desired had I come to my end as a Hospital matron). And I beg you to be so very good as to see that this my wish is accomplished, whenever the time comes, if you will take the trouble as a true friend, which you always have been, are, and will be. And this will make me die in peace because I believe it to be God's will.

It was not so to be. But we shall find, on opening the next Part in the story of Miss Nightingale's long life, that she was presently to have time for helping forward the movement, which she had promoted as a Reformer of Hospitals and as the Founder of Modern Nursing, into a new and a wider field.




Among new men, strange faces, other minds.


The year 1866 was one of stirring events both at home and abroad. It saw the downfall of the Whig Administration which, with a brief interval (1858–59), had held office under different chiefs since December 1852. In March Mr. Gladstone, now leader of the House of Commons, introduced a Reform Bill, of which the fortunes were uncertain owing to the dissent of the Adullamites under Mr. Lowe. On April 27 the second reading was carried by a majority of five only. On June 18 the Government was defeated in Committee on Lord Dunkellin's amendment, and resigned. On the day before Lord Russell's Government was defeated war was declared between Austria and her allies on the one side, and Prussia and Italy on the other. Prussia, armed with her new breech-loading gun, quickly defeated Austria. The foundation of the future German Empire under the hegemony of Prussia was laid, and Italy, as part of the price of a victory not hers, received from Austria the province of Venetia. Of these great events, some brought consequences with them to causes in which Miss Nightingale was deeply interested, whilst others made direct demands on her exertions.

The earlier months of the year were thus a period of continuous and almost feverish activity on her part. Two of her letters—the former written when the fate of the Government was still trembling in the balance, the latter[105] written when the new Government had been installed and when the war was raging on the continent—will serve to introduce the subjects of this chapter:—

(Miss Nightingale to Harriet Martineau.) 35 South Street, May 2 [1866].… We have been rather in a fever lately because Ministers were hovering between in and out. Mr. Villiers promised us a Bill quite early in the year for a London uniform Poor Rate for the sick and consolidated hospitals under a central management. (This was before we got our Earls and Archbishops and M.P.'s together to storm him in his den.) We shall not get our Bill this session, for Mr. Villiers is afraid of losing the Government one vote. But we shall certainly get it in time. “In 1860 the consolations of the future never failed me for a moment. And I find them now an equally secure resource.” Can you guess who wrote those words? They are in a note from Mr. Gladstone written the morning of his speech on the Franchise Bill. Could you have believed he was so much in earnest? I could not. And yet I knew him once very well. His speech (he was ill) impressed the House very much. “And e'en the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer.” …

(Miss Nightingale to Julius Mohl.) 35 South Street, July 12 [1866]. I have been in the thick of all these changes of Government. I should like, if you had been in England, to have shown you the notes I have had from those going out, and those coming in—especially from my own peculiar masters, Lord de Grey and Lord Stanley. They are so much more serious and anxious than the world gives them credit for. I used to think public opinion was higher than private opinion. I now think just the reverse. As for the Times and about all these German affairs—I believe the Times to be a faithful reflection of the public opinion of our upper classes: see what it is. Last week Prussia and Bismarck were the greatest criminals in Europe. This week the needle-gun (I mean Prussia and Bismarck—no, I mean the needle-gun) is a constitutional Protestant—or a Protestant constitution, I am not sure which.… But I was going to tell you: Lord Stanley has taken the Foreign Office (how he or anybody could take willingly the Foreign Office, England having now so little weight in European councils, in preference to the India Office which Lord Stanley created[67] and where we create the future of 150 millions of men, one can't understand). Lord Stanley accepted the Foreign Office solely[106] because he could not help it—Lord Clarendon (which I saw under his own hand) having “unhesitatingly declined” it, although Lord Derby made the most vehement love to him, even to offering to him the nomination of half the places in the Cabinet. This I heard from Lord Clarendon himself.… Like you, I can't sleep or eat for thinking of this War. I can't distract my thoughts from it—because, you know, it is my business. I am consulted on both sides as to their Hospital and sanitary arrangements.… And then those stupid Italians publish parts of my letter—just the froth at the end, you know, while I had given them a solid pudding of advice at their own request—publish it cruelly, without my leave, with my address—since which my doors have been besieged by all exiles of all nations asking to be sent to Italy, and women threatening to “accoucher” (sic) in my passage. I sometimes think I must give up business, i.e. work, or life. It would take two strong policemen to keep my beggars in check. No one could believe the stories I should have to tell—people who beg of me whom I might just as well beg of … [a sheet missing]. Of course now I have to begin again at the very beginning with Mr. Gathorne Hardy at the Poor Law Board, to get our Metropolitan Workhouse Infirmary Bill. It was a cruel disappointment to me to see the Bill go just as I had it in my grasp. Also: a Public Health Service organization for Sir John Lawrence in India which I lost by 24 hours!! owing to Lord de Grey's going out. However, I am well nigh done for. Life is too hard for me. I have suffered so very much all the winter and spring, for which nothing did me any good but a curious new-fangled little operation of putting opium in under the skin, which relieves one for 24 hours, but does not improve the vivacity or serenity of one's intellect. When Ministers went out, I had hopes for a time from a Committee of the House of Commons (on which serves John Stuart Mill) “on the special local government of the Metropolis.” At their request I wrote them a long letter. Then because it is July and they are rather hot, they give it up for this year. The change of Ministers, which brings hard work to us drudges, releases the House of Commons men. Alas! (There is a pathetic story of Balzac's, in which a poor woman who had followed the Russian campaign, was never able to articulate any word except Adieu, Adieu, Adieu! I am afraid of going mad like her and not being able to articulate any word but Alas! alas! alas!)—F. N.



Of the events over which Miss Nightingale cried alas! in this letter, the one which came first was the loss of Mr. Villiers's Poor Law Bill. The loss, however, as she rightly surmised in writing to Miss Martineau, was only temporary. The whole subject is connected with a distinct branch of Miss Nightingale's work, of which a description must be reserved for the next chapter. She was in large measure, as we shall hear, the founder of Sick Nursing among the Indigent Poor, and a pioneer in Poor Law Reform.

The next event is connected with a subject with which we have already made acquaintance. Miss Nightingale “lost by 24 hours the opportunity of organizing a Public Health Service in India for Sir John Lawrence.” The story of this lost opportunity and its retrieval illustrate the truth of something said already;[68] namely, the difference it made that there was in London, in the person of Miss Nightingale, a resolute enthusiast, to whom the question of Indian sanitation was not “one of a thousand questions,” but the one question of absorbing interest. That the opportunity of which she spoke was lost, was not, as by this time the reader will hardly need to be told, in any way whatever the fault of Miss Nightingale. It is a curious story, and is the subject of a great mass of correspondence amongst her Papers—a mass eloquent of the eager interest and infinite trouble which she devoted to the matter; but the story itself admits of being told succinctly. A few words, however, are first necessary on the essential issues; it was not a case of much ado about nothing. The whole future of sanitary progress in India was, or might reasonably be thought to be, at stake. Under the energetic rule of Sir John Lawrence, a good start had been made. The Governor-General continued to report progress to Miss Nightingale, and suggestions which she sent were communicated by him to his officers. But the larger questions of organization had still to be settled. Sir John's eagerness as a sanitary reformer was in some measure held in check by[108] shortage of money. “Sanitary works,” as Lord Salisbury remarked at a later stage of the affair, “are uniformly costly works.” Miss Nightingale's view was that whether advance was to be slower or quicker, the organization should be on lines which would ensure the importance of advance being constantly kept in mind. She insisted that the Public Health Service in India should be a separate service, responsible to the Governor-General in Council, not a subordinate branch tucked away under some other department. This is the burden of many letters and memoranda from her hand.

Early in 1866 a double opportunity seemed to offer itself to Miss Nightingale for advancing her cause. At the beginning of February Sir Charles Wood resigned office, and her friend, Lord de Grey, became Secretary of State for India in his place. At the same time she had received an important letter from the Governor-General (dated Calcutta, Jan. 19). Her friend, Mr. Ellis, who had been in conclave (as we have heard) with her and her circle, had shortly before submitted proposals to him. Sir John Lawrence wrote to her: “As regards the reconstruction of our sanitary organizations, we are sending home to the Secretary of State a copy of Mr. Ellis's note which he sent me, and are proposing a further change somewhat in accordance with his plan. I have no doubt that you will see the dispatch, and therefore I had better not send it to you.” He then went on to give a summary of its contents. The summary was brief, and allowed of different opinions as to the ultimate bearing of the Governor-General's proposals. He had assumed as a matter of course that she would be shown his dispatch, and she applied to her official friends for a sight of it. They would be delighted if they had it, but they had received no such dispatch; perhaps it would come by the next mail. But it did not, nor by the next, nor the next, for a very simple reason, as will presently appear. Miss Nightingale put on her friend Mr. Ellis, who as the head of a Presidency Health Commission had a direct locus standi, to inquire and even to search at the India Office. “They swear by their gods,” he reported, “that they have no such dispatch.” Miss Nightingale was becoming desperate. She[109] was perfectly certain that Sir John Lawrence must have sent it. Meanwhile the Home Government was tottering to its fall; the new Secretary of State might be one who knew not Miss Nightingale. She entreated that a further search should be made. On May 5 she was told that “at last the Sanitary Minute had been found, and a copy of it was sent for her consideration. It had been attached to some papers connected with the Financial Department and thus had escaped attention. Lord de Grey begged Miss Nightingale to let him have the benefit of her opinion upon it as soon as possible.” She afterwards learnt that it was the Secretary of State himself who, with his own hands, had searched for and found the Governor-General's Minute. It had “escaped attention” for nearly four months. The incident did not raise Miss Nightingale's opinion of government offices, or lessen her sense of responsibility in the duty of keeping the sanitary question to the fore. She was ill when the Minister's message arrived; but she at once set to work, and on May 7 she sent in a memorandum giving a summary of her views, and pointing out wherein the Governor-General's proposals seemed to require revision if the recommendations of the Royal Commission were to be carried out effectually. The Minister was busy with many things. His own fate and that of his colleagues were in peril every day. A month intervened before the next move was taken. On June 11 Miss Nightingale was asked by Lord de Grey, through Captain Galton, to develop her views further and to draw up, in consultation with Dr. Sutherland, “a draft letter which he could submit to the Indian Council as his reply to Sir John Lawrence.” The letter was to take the form either of “a practical scheme to propose to Sir John Lawrence for the sanitary administration of India” or of “such a description of the requirements as would draw from Sir J. L. a practical scheme.” It was suggested that perhaps it would be best if the letter (1) shadowed out the requirements and (2) sketched a scheme of administration for carrying them out. This was a large order and took time. On June 19 Miss Nightingale sent in her draft. She was “24 hours” too late, for on June 18 the Government had been defeated. There was, however, a short period of grace owing to the[110] absence of the Queen at Balmoral and to her unwillingness to accept Lord Russell's resignation.[69] Lord de Grey had no time to pass the letter through the Secretary of State's Council, but he did what he could. He left on record at the India Office, he told Miss Nightingale, a Minute[70] closely following the lines of her Memorandum. If his successor let the matter go to sleep again, Lord de Grey would be ready to call attention to it in Parliament. He assured Miss Nightingale that his interest in such questions would remain as warm as ever, and as she was now more likely than he to know what was going on, he begged her to keep him informed.


So, then, she had been too late. “I am furious to that degree,” she wrote to Captain Galton (June 23), “at having lost Lord de Grey's five months at the India Office that I am fit to blow you all to pieces with an infernal machine of my own invention.” She threw some of the blame upon Dr. Sutherland, whose mission to the Mediterranean she had not been able to cancel, and who, for weeks at a time during this year, was absent at Malta and Gibraltar or in Algiers. Algiers, indeed, she wrote tauntingly, “why not Astley's?” That would be quite as good a change for him. Sometimes she varied the figure, and Dr. Sutherland and his party figured in her letters as Wombwell's Menagerie. “The Menagerie, I hear,” she wrote (Jan. 26), “including three ladies, H.M. Commissioners, and two ladies' maids, has gone after a column in the interior.” Had he stayed at home, he might have been able to find the missing dispatch; and in any case they could have written at leisure, from the hints in Sir John Lawrence's letter to her, the Memorandum which they ultimately had to write in haste. The truant seems to have foreseen what a rod in pickle[111] was awaiting him on his return. “I have been thinking,” he wrote to her from Algiers (Jan. 28), “Will she be glad to hear from me? or Will she swear? I don't know, but nevertheless I will tell her a bit of my mind about our visit to Astley's.” And he goes on to write an admirable account of his experiences, in which he ingeniously emphasizes the vast importance of his inquiries in connection with their Indian work. Nor was this only an excuse; Dr. Sutherland's Report on Algeria, and the French sanitary service there, was a most valuable piece of work. It is impossible to read his writings—whether in published reports or in his manuscripts among Miss Nightingale's papers—without perceiving how well based was the reliance which she placed upon his collaboration. His wife stayed at home and saw much of Miss Nightingale. Mrs. Sutherland must have reported the state of things in South Street; for a month later Dr. Sutherland wrote thus to Miss Nightingale (Feb. 20): “The mail which ought to have arrived yesterday came in to-day, and I am trying to save the out mail, which leaves the harbour at 12, without much prospect of success. I have had a letter to-day from home about you, and if it had come yesterday, Ellis and I would certainly have been embarking to-day for England. After the account of your suffering, and of the pressure of business under which you are sinking, I feel wild to get away from this. To-night we leave Algeria, and by the time you get this we will be on our way home. God bless you and keep you to us. Amen.” Well, I can only hope that Dr. Sutherland enjoyed his trip while it lasted; for I fear that he may have had a bad quarter-of-an-hour when he reported himself at South Street on his return. She had complained of his absence to another of her close allies, Dr. Farr. “I have all Dr. Sutherland's business to do,” she wrote (Jan. 19), “besides my own. If it could be done, I should not mind. I had just as soon wear out in two months as in two years, so the work be done. But it can't. It is just like two men going into business with a million each. The one suddenly withdraws. The other may wear himself to the bone, but he can't meet the engagements with one million which he made with two. Add to this, I have been so ill since the beginning of the year as to[112] be often unable to have my position moved from pain for 48 hours at a time. But to business.…”

One good stroke of business, however, Miss Nightingale had been able to do during Dr. Sutherland's absence. She reported it to Dr. Farr: “The compensation to my disturbed state of mind has been a convert to the sanitary cause I have made for Madras—no less a person than Lord Napier. I managed to scramble up to see him before he sailed.” The “conversion” means not necessarily that Lord Napier needed to find salvation, but refers rather to the fact that his predecessor in the governorship of Madras had been unsympathetic. Lord Napier, on receiving the appointment, had expressed a desire to learn Miss Nightingale's views. He had been secretary to the British Embassy at Constantinople during the Crimean War, and had there formed a high opinion of her ability and devotion. She now wrote to him about Indian sanitary reform, and he at once replied:—

(Lord Napier to Miss Nightingale.) 24 Princes Gate, Feb. 16 [1866]. I beg you to believe that I am far from being impatient of your communication or indifferent to your wishes. I have read your letter with great interest, and I regret that you had not time and strength to make it longer. You will confer a great favour on me by sending me the 8vo volume of which you speak, and I would not stumble at the two folio blue books.… The Sanitary question like the railway question or the irrigation question will probably remain subordinated in some degree to financial requirements, to the necessity of shewing a surplus at the end of the year; but within the limits of my available resources I promise you a zealous intervention on behalf of the cause you have so much at heart. You say that you do not know me well; but you cannot deprive me of the happiness and honor of having seen you at the greatest moment of your life in the little parlour of the hospital at Scutari. I was a spectator, and I would have been a fellow-labourer if any one would have employed my services. I remain at your orders for any day and hour.—Very sincerely yours, Napier.

Their interview took place three days later. Lord Napier, during his governorship of Madras, which lasted six years, tried hard to fulfil his promise. To other matters he attended also; but it was to questions connected with the[113] public health that he devoted his most particular attention, and throughout his residence in India he kept up a correspondence with Miss Nightingale about them.


Meanwhile on the immediate question of the moment she had been too late, and her political friends were out. She was a Whig and a keen Reformer; but she was a sanitarian before she was a politician, and as soon as the Whigs fell she was on the alert to make friends for her causes with the mammon of unrighteousness. She was eager to hear the earliest political news:—

(Miss Nightingale to Captain Galton.) June 27.… Now do write to a wretched female, F. N., about who is to come in where. Does Gen. Peel come to the War Office? If so, will he annihilate our Civil Sanitary element? Is Sutherland to go all the same to Malta and Gibraltar this autumn? Will Gen. Peel imperil the Army Sanitary Commission? I must know: ye Infernal Powers! Is Mr. Lowe to come in to the India Office? It is all unmitigated disaster to me. For, as Lord Stanley is to be Foreign Office (the only place where he can be of no use to us), I shall not have a friend in the world. If I were to say more, I should fall to swearing, I am so indignant.—Ever yours furiously, F. N.

Captain Galton replied that he had it from Mr. Lowe himself that he would not join the Tories; that of the actual appointments he had not as yet heard; but that as the Secretary of State's was an impersonal office, Dr. Sutherland's commission to visit the Mediterranean would still hold good—or bad. “You say the S. of S. is an impersonal creature,” replied Miss Nightingale (July 3); “I wish he wuz!” When the names of the new Ministers were announced, Captain Galton threw out a suggestion tentatively that Lord Cranborne[71] (India Office) might be approachable through Lady Cranborne. “I have a much better recommendation to him than that,” wrote Miss Nightingale in some triumph (July 7), “and have already been put into ‘direct[114] communication’ with him, not at my own request.” The letters tell the story of her introduction to new masters at the India Office and the Poor Law Board:—

(Lord Stanley to Miss Nightingale.) St. James's Square, July 6. I shall see Lord Cranborne to-day (we go down to be sworn in) and will tell him the whole sanitary story, and also say that I have advised you to write to him as you have always done to me to my great advantage. You will find him shrewd, industrious, and a good man of business.

(Miss Nightingale to Lord Cranborne.) 35 South Street, July 17. Lord Stanley had the kindness to advise me to write to you, and to tell me that he would tell you that he had “advised” me “to write to” you as I “have done to” him. This is my only excuse for what would otherwise be a very great impertinence and what I fear may seem to you such even now, viz. my present application to you on the India Public Health question. I know I ought to begin, “Miss Nightingale presents her compliments to Lord Cranborne.” But the “third person” always becomes confused. Lord Stanley has probably scarcely had the time to tell you my long story. I fear, therefore, I must introduce myself, by saying that my apology for what you may (justly) consider an unwarrantable interference must be—the part I have taken in the Public Health of the Army in India for the last 8 years, having been in communication with Lord Stanley, Sir C. Wood, and Lord de Grey about it, and being now in constant communication with Sir John Lawrence and others in India on the same subject. When Lord de Grey left office, Lord Stanley, of his own accord, kindly asked whether he should “put” me “in direct communication” with you.

This is my general apology. My particular one is: that by last mail I received some very pressing letters from India on the subject of the introduction of an efficient Public Health administration into India, which is after this wise:—the spirit of the very general recommendations made by the R. Commission which reported in 1863 (presided over by Lord Stanley) had never been completely acted up to—there have been difficulties and clashings in consequence. A Minute (of January 9, 1866) was sent home by Sir John Lawrence proposing to connect the Public Health Service with the Inspectorship of Prisons. The proposal appears to have been made without due consideration of the importance and greatness of the duties; if it were carried out, it would put an end, we believe, to any prospect of efficient progress. (I think I am correct in saying that Lord Stanley concurs in this view.) Lord de Grey was deeply impressed with this defect in the scheme; he drew up a Minute (just before he[115] left office) in order to leave his views on record for you, setting forth generally the duties, and asking for a reconsideration of the subject in India, before the organisation was finally decided on—of the Public Health Service. I would now venture to ask your favourable consideration for this proposal, because, on the organisation of a service adequate for the object, depends the entire future of the Public Health in India. We commit ourselves into your hands.

(Lord Cranborne to Miss Nightingale.) India Office, July 17. I am much obliged to you for your letter; and especially for your kindness in relieving me from the literary effort of composing a letter or series of letters in the third person. Lord Stanley spoke to me about the sanitary question some days ago, and told me I should probably hear from you. I have made enquiries as to the Despatch you mention, and find that it is in the office still awaiting decision. No confirmation of it shall take place until I have communicated further with you upon the subject. I shall not be able to go into the sanitary question until I have disposed of the claims of the Indian officers, which, according to all the best authorities, are very urgently in need of immediate settlement. But as soon as that is done with, I hope that the sanitary question may be taken up without delay.

(Mr. Gathorne Hardy to Miss Nightingale.) Poor Law Board, July 25. You owe me no apology for calling my attention to material points connected with the subject in the consideration of which you are so much engaged. I should say this to any one who wrote in the same spirit as yourself, but I am really indebted to you who have earned no common title to advise and suggest upon anything which affects the treatment of the sick. Your note arrived at the very instant when a gentleman was urging me to lay before you questions relating to Workhouse Infirmaries, and I should not have hesitated to do so if needful even without the cordial invitation which you give me to ask your assistance. At present I have not advanced very far from want of time, as while Parliament is sitting I am necessarily very much occupied with other business, and I am anxious to remedy, if possible, present and urgent grievances before I enter thoroughly upon legislation for the future. I shall bear in mind the offer which you have made and in all probability avail myself of it to the full.

So, then, perhaps Miss Nightingale would not be left wholly friendless after all. She was to have new masters. Would they, or would they not, accept her service? We shall hear in due course.



Meanwhile Miss Nightingale had been very busily engaged with the correspondence and other tasks thrown upon her by the outbreak of war in Europe. “Saw Florence for half an hour this morning,” reported her father (June); “over-fatigued certainly, but speaking with a voice only too loud and strong. Princess [Alice of] Hesse writes to her to ask for instructions for the hospitals there, and Sutherland's joke is ‘There's nothing left for you, all is gone to Garibaldi.’” She had been applied to by representatives of all three combatants. Prussia, as usual, was the better prepared, and the Crown Princess had written to Miss Nightingale in March (three months before hostilities actually began) asking for her assistance and advice about hospital and nursing arrangements. A Prussian manufacturer communicated with her about the best form of hospital tents for field-service. The two sisters of the British Royal House were on opposite sides in this war, for Hesse-Darmstadt had thrown in its lot with Austria; but it was not till after the outbreak of hostilities that the Princess Alice wrote to Miss Nightingale through Lady Ely[72] for advice about war hospitals. Miss Nightingale at once sent it. Her Memorandum, she was told (July 3), had been forwarded to Prince Louis for use at Headquarters, and the Princess begged her to send further information for use by the hospital authorities in Darmstadt. The Italians had been earlier in “going to Miss Nightingale.” The Secretary of the “Florence Committee for helping the Sick and Wounded” had written to her for advice in May. Her reply caused great delight, as an English correspondent at Florence recorded. “I have read the letter,” he wrote, “which will be translated and inserted in the Nazione. Miss Nightingale gives, with her accustomed clearness and precision, excellent advice to the Committee, which some of them very much need. At the same time she expresses her cordial sympathy with the Italian cause. She recalls the admirable condition[117] in which the Sardinian army was landed in the Crimea, and the praise which its appearance extorted from Lord Clyde. And she concludes her letter by saying that if the sacrifice of her poor life would hasten their cause by one half-hour, she would gladly give it them. But she is a miserable invalid.”[73] The Committee had asked whether she would not come to Italy “were it but for one day” in order to inspire them by her presence. Her piece of “froth” (as she called it) was widely printed in the Italian press. She had deplored the outbreak of the war, but when it resulted in an extension of the boundaries of free Italy she felt that there were compensations. Miss Nightingale also joined the Committee of the “Ladies' Association” formed in this country “for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded of all nations engaged.” She advised the Committee on the form of aid most requisite, and at the end of the war, in thanking the Crown Princess of Prussia for a letter, she gave Her Royal Highness an account of what had been done by the English Committee. The correspondence with the Princess was long, and it formed a new tie between Miss Nightingale and Mr. Jowett, who was a great favourite with the Crown Princess and who entertained a very high opinion of her abilities. The answering letter from the Princess covers eighteen pages, containing (as Dr. Sutherland said of it) “just the kind of practical information which a person who has had experience in these matters desires to obtain.” A characteristic extract or two from the correspondence on each side must here suffice:—

(Miss Nightingale to the Crown Princess of Prussia.) 35 South Street, Sept. 22 [1866].… I think your Royal Highness may be pleased to hear even the humble opinion of an old campaigner like myself about how well the Army Hospital Service was managed in the late terrible war. Information reached me through my old friends and trainers of Kaiserswerth. The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem took charge of all the Deaconesses and all the offers of houses and rooms made to them. The system seems to me to have been admirably managed—especially the sending away the wounded in hundreds to towns where rooms and houses and nursing were offered. The overcrowding[118] and massing together of large numbers of wounded is always more disastrous than battle itself. From many different quarters I have heard of the great devotion, skill and generous kindness of the Prussian surgeons—to all sides alike.… On this, the day of Manin's death nine years ago, the exiled Dictator of Venice and one of the purest and most far-seeing of statesmen, who fought so good a battle for the freedom of Venice, but who did not live to see its accomplishment, I cannot but congratulate your Royal Highness, at the risk of impertinence, at seeing the fulfilment of that liberation brought about by Prussian arms.

(The Crown Princess of Prussia to Miss Nightingale.) New Palace, Potsdam, Sept. 29. I was delighted to receive your long and interesting letter yesterday, and hasten to express my warmest thanks for it. Every appreciation of Prussia in England can but give me the greatest pleasure.… As you are such an advocate for fresh air, I cannot refrain from telling you what I have myself seen in confirmation of your opinion on the subject, and what I am sure would interest dear Sir James Clark, who is your great ally on this point. In a small well-kept Hospital, where wounded soldiers had been taken care of for some time, the wounds in several cases did not seem to improve, the general state of health of the patients did not show any progress. They were feverish, and the appearance of the wounds was that of the beginning of mortification. In the garden of the Hospital there was a shed or summer-house of rough boards, with a wooden roof; the little building was quite open in front and on the other sides closed up with boards but with an aperture of two feet all the way under the roof—so that it was like being out of doors. Six patients were moved down into this shed (sorely against their will, they were afraid of catching cold). The very next day they got better; the fever left them, the condition of the wounds became healthy; they enjoyed their summer-house—in spite of two violent storms which knocked down the tables; and all quickly recovered! I had seen them every day upstairs and saw them every day in the garden; the difference was incredible.… The Crown Prince wishes me to say what pleasure it gives him to hear you speak in praise of our Prussian army surgeons.… I remain ever, dear Miss Nightingale, yours sincerely, Victoria, Crown Princess of Prussia and Princess Royal.

Among other details, a particular kind of field-ambulance was mentioned by the Crown Princess as having proved very useful. Miss Nightingale at once put Dr. Longmore, of our own hospital service, in possession of the facts.

It will have been seen that Miss Nightingale's experience[119] was much requisitioned in the War of 1866; but the organization of war-nursing under the Red Cross had not then attained full development owing to the fact that the Austrian Government had not ratified the Geneva Convention of 1864. In 1867 a gold medal was awarded to Miss Nightingale by the Conference of Red Cross Societies at Paris. In 1870 (March 31) the Austrian Patriotic Society for the Relief of Wounded Soldiers elected her an Honorary Member.


The year 1866 was, then, one of great activity with Miss Nightingale; but by the middle of August her work was not at such high pressure as in the preceding months. Parliament was up, and the new Ministers, with whom she had established friendly relations, were turning round. At this time a home call came to Miss Nightingale. Her mother was reported to be ailing. She was disinclined to make the usual move with her husband from Hampshire to Derbyshire; so, while the father went to Lea Hurst, Miss Nightingale decided to stay with her mother at Embley. It was an event in the family circle, for Florence had not been to either of the homes for ten years. There was much correspondence and many preparations. Father and mother were equally delighted, and the journey in an invalid carriage did the daughter no serious harm. She stayed at Embley from the middle of August till the end of November. It was the first holiday she had taken, for ten years also; but it was not much of a holiday either. She set to work on the health of Romsey, the nearest town, and of Winchester, the county town. She wrote up to her friend Dr. Farr at the Registrar-General's Office for the mortality tables, found the figures for those towns above the average, and bade the citizens look to their drains. Then she commanded Dr. Sutherland to Embley for the transaction of business in view of next year's session. She found her mother happy and cheerful. “I don't think my dear mother was ever more touching or interesting to me,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (Aug. 21), “than she is now in her state of dilapidation. She is so much gentler, calmer, more thoughtful.” She was a[120] little critical, however, of her mother still, and thought her habits self-indulgent. Poor lady! she was 78; she had been shaken and bruised in a carriage accident, and was threatened with the loss of her eye-sight. Certainly, Florence was not always able to make due allowances for other people. But if she was critical of others, she was yet more severe with herself. During this holiday at Embley, she resumed those written self-examinations and meditations for which, frequent in her earlier years, she seems to have found little time during the strenuous decade 1856–66. “I never failed in energy,” she said once in later years; “but to do everything from the best motive—that is quite another thing.” In reviewing her past life on October 21, 1866, the anniversary of her departure for the Crimea, and on subsequent days, she seems to have had a like thought. Her meditations were not so much of what she had done as of what she had done amiss; her resolutions were of greater purity of motive, and greater peace, through a more entire trust in God: “Called to be the ‘handmaid of the Lord,’ and I have complained of my suffering life! What return does God expect from me—with what purity of heart and intention should I make an offering of myself to Him! The word of the Lord unto thee: He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.… But, when we are ill, how can we be like God? I look up and see the drops of dew, blue, golden, green, and red, glittering in the sun on the top of the deciduous cypress—that is like God. We see Him for a moment—we perceive His beauty. It lights us, even when we lie here prostrate.… Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God—in all temptation, trials, and aridities, in the agony and bloody sweat, in the Cross and Passion: this is not the prerogative of the future life, but of the present.”


[1] An eloquent address delivered to the British Association at Manchester (Times, Sept. 9, 1861).

[2] Miss Nightingale related this incident in two letters—to Dr. Farr (Sept. 10), and to Harriet Martineau (Sept. 24).

[3] See Vol. I. p. 405.

[4] Vol. I. p. 496.

[5] No. 32 at that time; now renumbered, No. 4.

[6] See on this subject Bibliography B, No. 23. The Secretary of another body, the United States Christian Communion, in sending reports and papers to Miss Nightingale (July 26, 1865) wrote: “Your influence and our indebtedness to you can never be known. Only this is true that everywhere throughout our broad country during these years of inventive and earnest benevolence in the constant endeavour to succour and sustain our heroic defenders, the name and work of Florence Nightingale have been an encouragement and inspiration.” In the same year the plans of an Emigrant Hospital on Ward Island were sent to her. In return she sent engravings of the Departure and the Arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers: “Presented to the Commissioners of Emigration of New York for the new Emigrant Hospital on Ward Island by Florence Nightingale as a slight sign of her deepest reverence and her warmest sympathy for the noble act by which they have so magnificently provided for—not their own sick, but—those of the Old Country.”

[7] The reference here is to the Aunt who, in earlier years, had been in close companionship with her. At this time there was some misunderstanding between them. Mrs. Smith's advancing age and home claims brought a cessation of her constant activity in Miss Nightingale's service; but in later years aunt and niece took much counsel together in a resumed study of the religious subjects upon which they had formerly held intimate converse: see below, pp. 353, 387.

[8] Speech on Fox's East India Bill, Dec. 1, 1783 (Burke's Speeches, 1816, vol. ii. p. 430).

[9] See Vol. I. p. 339.

[10] In her marginalia to Sir William Hunter's Earl of Mayo (1891).

[11] Indian officers (and especially Colonel Young) supplied her with sketches, some of which were touched up by her cousin, Miss Hilary Bonham Carter.

[12] A true prediction: see Sir Bartle Frere's saying, below, p. 158.

[13] The inscription is: “To Miss Florence Nightingale in recollection of the greatest and best of Princes from the beloved Prince's broken-hearted Widow, Victoria R. Osborne, Jan. 13, 1863.”

[14] He had been recalled from Madras in 1860.

[15] “It will be remembered that Miss Florence Nightingale came to this country and was impressed with the idea that if India needed anything it was village sanitation. She collected a mass of facts and has since been agitating in England”: Amrita Bazar Patrika (Calcutta), June 29, 1892, reprinted in the Indian Spectator, July 10.

[16] See Vol. I. p. 277.

[17] Letter to Sir J. McNeill, Aug. 8, 1862.

[18] The Barrack and Hospital Commission, re-named the Army Sanitary Committee in 1865; see p. 65.

[19] Her nominations were, in the end, all approved. The Indian representatives were Sir Proby Cautley and Sir James Ranald Martin.

[20] “On the 5th February 1864, the Government of India informed the Secretary of State that, in consequence of the non-arrival of the Report of the Royal Commission, it had not been possible to carry out the measures indicated in the despatch of the 15th August, but that having just received a few copies, &c., &c.” (Memorandum on Measures adopted for Sanitary Improvements in India up to the end of 1867, p. 2).

[21] See below, p. 49 n.

[22] Bibliography A, No. 34.

[23] Miss Nightingale's letter to Lord Shaftesbury is printed in his Life, p. 581.

[24] This was not designedly a practical joke. The Clerk to the Commission held a post in the Board.

[25] See Bibliography A, No, 33 (3).

[26] A leading article appeared on August 23, introducing a series of “special articles” which began on the following day.

[27] Mr. Herbert had promised, but apparently only by word of mouth, that the services rendered by Dr. Farr and Dr. Sutherland to the Commission should be paid. Miss Nightingale was able to confirm the promise.

[28] Letter to Harriet Martineau (Feb. 2, 1865).

[29] From the Life of Lord Lawrence, by R. Bosworth Smith, 1885, vol. ii. p. 278.

[30] That is the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission (Army Sanitary Committee), reinforced by India Office representatives, which was to issue Sanitary Suggestions for the Government of India.

[31] Bibliography A, No. 24.

[32] On March 1, on a debate on the Yeomanry, the majority had been 1.

[33] This was no idle taunt. The Government of India had already put in force some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission before it had officially received copies of the Report: see above, p. 34 and n.

[34] Miss Nightingale conducted a secret inquiry, which would have done credit to a detective-inspector, into the causes of this delay. According to “information received,” the first cause was that the final printing order was delayed while communications went to and fro between the War Office and the India Office upon the number of copies required. Then the supply ultimately ordered by the latter passed leisurely from one sub-department to another. Finally, the stock reposed a while at a warehouse across the water, until there were sufficient official papers to fill certain regulation cases of a regulation size.

[35] John Strachey (1823–1907); afterwards Chief Commissioner of Oudh, Lieut.-Governor of the N.W. Provinces, financial member of the Governor-General's Council; knighted, 1872; G.C.S.I., 1878; and member of the Secretary of State's Council.

[36] On this subject, see below, p. 128.

[37] This incident was told in Sir Hugh Rose's letter.

[38] If any reader should desire to follow up the criticisms and the replies, he will find the Reply to Dr. Leith in Parliamentary Papers, 1865, No. 329; and the Government of India's dispatch with the Reply, in Nos. 108 and 324. Dr. Leith's Report does not appear to have been reprinted as a Parliamentary Paper. A copy of it, printed at Bombay, 1864, is among Miss Nightingale's papers.

[39] The Commission looked forward to a rate of not more than 10 per 1000. The rate in 1911 was, as already stated, 5.04.

[40] Bibliography A, No. 44. For the subsequent fate of this scheme, see below, p. 157.

[41] See Vol. I. p. 184.

[42] Miss Nightingale must have enjoyed the correspondence that ensued; for not only was Mr. Wright sound on sanitary matters (“it is no part of a prisoner's sentence that he should be black-holed”), but he wrote to her in a racy style. “I send you (Oct. 23) a specimen of the materials sent home by colonial prison authorities with the endorsement of a colonial Governor:—Question: What is the mode of treating lunatic or maniacal prisoners? Answer: Maniacles is not nor ever has been in use in this prison.”

[43] See Vol. I. p. 405.

[44] There is a succinct account of organizations and reorganizations between 1854 and 1868 in a Memorandum on the Organization of the War Office by Captain Galton, dated November 1868.

[45] See Vol. I. p. 231.

[46] Letter of April 12, 1896, to Mrs. Henry Bonham Carter.

[47] He had succeeded to the earldom of Dalhousie on the death of his cousin, the 10th earl and first marquis, in Dec. 1860.

[48] Mr. R. Monckton Milnes had been created Baron Houghton in 1863.

[49] It is in Hansard on March 6, 1865.

[50] Hansard, June 19 and 30, 1865.

[51] The history of this affair, which excited a prodigious interest in Parliament and the press, may be read by the curious in vol. xxxiii. of the Parliamentary Papers of 1863, and vol. xxxv. of those of 1864. Miss Nightingale's good offices were asked by the War Office to parry an attack by “Jacob Omnium,” for whose part in the affair see Essays on Social Subjects, by Matthew John Higgins, 1875, pp. lvi.–lx.

[52] It certainly was dull: see Hansard, March 3, 1864.

[53] See below, p. 108.

[54] Below, p. 408.

[55] Attention was called to it, and the moral was pointed, by a leading article in the Daily News (July 8), doubtless written by Harriet Martineau.

[56] See Vol. I. p. 279.

[57] Bibliography A, Nos. 39 and 40.

[58] Ibid. No. 47.

[59] A letter to her on this subject (Dec. 6, 1864) from the permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office is printed in Letters of Frederick Lord Blachford, 1896, p. 251.

[60] Her places of residence in 1862 and 1863 have been given above, p. 24. In 1864 she lived at 32 (now No. 4) South Street, the Verneys' house (Jan.); at 115 Park Street (Feb.–July); at 7 Oak Hill Park, Hampstead (Aug.–Oct.). She was at 27 Norfolk Street from Nov. 1864 to May 1, 1865. During May and June 1865 and again in Oct., she was at 34 (now No. 8) South Street; in July–Sept., she was at Hampstead.

[61] She was still so beset by begging letters, that Mr. Smith had a notice inserted in the Times of April 29, 1864, to the effect that she could not answer them or return any papers enclosed to her.

[62] See Vol. I. pp. 370, 383.

[63] See the Times, April 18, 1864. The interview took place on Sunday afternoon April 17. On the day before, Garibaldi had been at Bedford.

[64] In a letter to Mr. Dennis R. Alward.

[65] On this subject, see below, p. 133.

[66] The copy in question was lent by Tennyson to Jowett, and by him to Miss Nightingale.

[67] Lord Stanley had been President of the Board of Control in 1858, in which capacity he conducted the India Bill through the House of Commons, and on its passage he became the first Secretary of State for India.

[68] Above, p. 58.

[69] In one of Mr. Jowett's letters to Miss Nightingale (June 1866) there is this story of Lord Russell. “On the evening of the crisis he was not to be found. He had gone down to Richmond to hear the Nightingales (your cousins)! ‘And the provoking thing,’ as he wrote to a friend, ‘was that they did not sing that night.’”

[70] The substance of it may be found at p. 11 of the Memorandum (as cited above, p. 34 n.).

[71] Better known as the Marquis of Salisbury, to which title he succeeded in 1868.

[72] Lady Ely as lady-in-waiting on Queen Victoria had made Miss Nightingale's acquaintance at Balmoral in 1856.

[73] Daily Telegraph (foreign intelligence), June 12, 1866.




I beg of you and pray you to look back upon the past with thankfulness and upon the future with hope—when there has been so much done and there is so much to do … many beginnings and ravelled threads to be woven in and completed.—Benjamin Jowett (Letter to Miss Nightingale, 1867).




From the first I had a sort of fixed faith that Florence Nightingale could do anything, and that faith is still fresh in me; and so it came to pass that the instant that name entered the lists I felt the fight was virtually won, and I feel this still.—H. B. Farnall, Poor Law Inspector (Dec. 1866).

Fifty years ago the state of things which Miss Nightingale had seen, and cured, in the military hospitals during the Crimean War was almost equalled, and was in some respects surpassed in scandal, by the condition of the peace hospitals for the sick poor at home. Those hospitals were the sick wards or infirmaries of workhouses, for the hospitals usually so-called skim only the surface of sickness in any great town. The state of the Metropolitan workhouses, as reported upon by the Poor Law Board in 1866, showed that the sick wards were for the most part insanitary and overcrowded; that the beds were insufficient and admirably contrived to induce sores; that the eating and drinking vessels were unclean; that there was a deficiency of basins, towels, brushes and combs; that the food for the patients was cooked by paupers and frequently served cold; that although the medical officers did their duty to the best of their ability, the attendance given and the salaries paid were inadequate to the needs of the sick. As for the nursing, it was done by paupers, many of whom could neither read nor write, whose love of drink often drove them to rob the sick of stimulants, and whose treatment of the poor was characterized neither by judgment nor by gentleness. This is the restrained euphemism of an official[124] report.[74] Sometimes a patient would miss the ministration of a nurse for days because the pauper charged to give it was herself bed-ridden. The rule of one nurse was to give medicine three times a day to the very ill and once to the rather ill. It was administered in a gallipot; the nurse “poured out the medicine and judged according.” Cases were reported in which a patient's bed was not made for five days and nights; in which patients had no food from 4 o'clock in the afternoon of one day to 8 o'clock in the morning of the next; in which patients died, or, to speak more correctly, were killed, by the most wanton neglect.

The dawn of a better day came with the passing of the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1867, an Act which figures in histories of the Poor Law in this country as “the starting-point of the modern development of Poor Law medical relief.” Many persons contributed to this reform. In the case of London, a “Commission,” instituted by the Lancet, under Mr. Ernest Hart, which afterwards developed into the “Association for the Improvement of the Infirmaries of London Workhouses,” should especially be mentioned. But the person who inspired the proper nursing of the sick poor, and who, behind the scenes, was a prime mover in the legislation of 1867, was Florence Nightingale.


The reform began in Liverpool, and the initiative was due to a philanthropist of that city, Mr. William Rathbone. He used to speak of Miss Nightingale as his “beloved Chief”; and she, when he died, sent a wreath inscribed “In remembrance and humblest love of one of God's best and greatest sons.” His voluminous correspondence with her began in 1861 when he was desirous of introducing a system of District Nursing among the poor of Liverpool. There were no trained nurses anywhere to be had, and he consulted Miss Nightingale. She suggested to him that Liverpool[125] had better train nurses for itself in its own principal hospital, the Royal Infirmary. Mr. Rathbone took up the idea, and built a Training School and Home for Nurses. This institution provided nurses both for the Royal Infirmary and for poor patients in their own homes. Miss Nightingale gave to all Mr. Rathbone's plans as close and constant consideration “as if she were going to be herself the matron.”[75] The scheme was started in 1862, and it proved so great a success that Mr. Rathbone was encouraged to attempt an extension of his benevolent enterprise. The Workhouse Infirmary at Liverpool was believed to be better than most places of its kind; but there, as elsewhere, the nursing—if so it could be called—was done by able-bodied pauper women. Able-bodied women who enter workhouses are never among the mentally and morally efficient; and in a seaport like Liverpool they were of an especially low and vicious kind. The work of the nurses, selected from this unpromising material, “was superintended by a very small number of paid but untrained parish officers, who were in the habit, it was said, of wearing kid gloves in the wards to protect their hands. All night a policeman patrolled some of the wards to keep order, while others, in which the inmates were too sick or infirm to make disturbance, were locked up and left unvisited all night.”[76] On Jan. 31, 1864, Mr. Rathbone wrote to Miss Nightingale, propounding a plan for introducing a staff of trained nurses and promising to guarantee the cost for a term of years if she would help with counsel and by finding a suitable Lady Superintendent. He asked for two letters—“one for influence,” to be shown to the Vestry, the other for his private advice.[77] She and Dr. Sutherland drew up the required documents; she arranged that twelve “Nightingale Nurses” should be sent from St. Thomas's Hospital; and she selected a Lady Superintendent—a choice on which, as both she and Mr. Rathbone felt, everything would depend. The Vestry agreed in May to accept Mr. Rathbone's scheme, but many months passed before it was actually launched. “There[126] has been as much diplomacy,” wrote Miss Nightingale to the Mother of the Bermondsey Convent (Sept. 3, 1864), “and as many treaties, and as much of people working against each other, as if we had been going to occupy a kingdom instead of a Workhouse.” The correspondence forms one of the bulkiest bundles among Miss Nightingale's Papers.

The Lady Superintendent—the pioneer of workhouse nursing—was Miss Agnes Jones, an Irish girl, daughter of Colonel Jones, of Fahan, Londonderry, and niece of Sir John Lawrence. She was attractive and rich, young and witty, but intensely religious and devoted to her work.[78] “Ideal in her beauty,” Miss Nightingale said of her;[79] “like a Louis XIV. shepherdess.” She was one of the many girls who had been thrilled by Miss Nightingale's volunteering for the Crimea. “Perhaps it is well,” she wrote, when entering St. Thomas's Hospital, “that I shall bear the name of a ‘Nightingale Probationer,’ for that honoured name is associated with my first thought of hospital life. In the winter of 1854, when I had those first longings for work and had for months so little to satisfy them, how I wished I were competent to join the Nightingale band when they started for the Crimea! I listened to the animadversions of many, but I almost worshipped her who braved them all.” In 1860 Miss Jones followed in her heroine's steps to Kaiserswerth. In 1862 she introduced herself to Miss Nightingale, who advised her to complete her apprenticeship by a year's training at St. Thomas's. “Hitherto,” the Matron reported to Miss Nightingale (Feb. 25, 1863), “I have had no lady probationer equal on all points to Miss Jones.” After completing her year's training at St. Thomas's she took service as a nurse in the Great Northern Hospital, and she was there when the invitation came to Liverpool. Miss Jones was at first diffident, but after an interview with Miss Nightingale “the conviction was borne in upon her,” as she wrote, that it was God's call and therefore must be obeyed in trust and with good hope.

In the history of modern nursing in this country the[127] Sixteenth of May 1865 is a date only less memorable than the Twenty-fourth of June 1860. On the earlier day the Nightingale Training School was opened at St. Thomas's; on the latter twelve trained Nightingale nurses began work in the Liverpool Infirmary, and the reform of workhouse nursing was therein inaugurated. Miss Jones herself had arrived a few weeks earlier. Mr. Rathbone felt the importance of the occasion, and marked it by a pretty attention to Miss Nightingale. “I beg,” he wrote (May 12, Miss Nightingale's birthday), “to be allowed to constitute myself your gardener to the extent of doing what I have long wished—providing a flower-stand for your room and keeping it supplied with plants. I hope you will not be offended with my presumption or refuse me the great pleasure of thinking that in your daily work you may have with you a reminder of my affectionate gratitude for all you have done for our town and for me. If the plants will only flourish, as the good seed you have planted here is doing, they will be bright enough; and as for my personal obligations, you can never know how great they are to you for guiding me to and in this work.” Mr. Rathbone and other kindly Liverpool men (among whom Mr. J. W. Cropper should be remembered) were equally thoughtful of Miss Jones. At their own expense they furnished rooms for her in the workhouse, and made them bright with flowers and pictures. But it was a formidable task to which she was called, and the pleasantness of her rooms made the workhouse wards look yet more terrible, she said, by contrast. A young woman, well-bred, sensitive, and refined, accustomed as yet only to well-appointed hospitals, was thrown into the rough-and-tumble of great pauper wards, where the officials, though well-intentioned, had necessarily caught something of the surrounding atmosphere. “Your kind letter,” she had written to Miss Nightingale, after a preliminary visit (Aug. 1864), “came in answer to earnest prayer, and gave me courage so that even now while waiting for the committee I do not feel nervous. The governor has promised me every co-operation and told me ‘not to be down-hearted if the undertaking seemed formidable at first, as he would pull me through everything.’[128] You will laugh when I tell you how at first his want of refinement prejudiced me, but his earnest hearty initiative in the whole work has quite won me.” Their relations afterwards were only indifferently good. Miss Jones's standard was too strict, he thought, for rough workhouse ways.

The greatest shock to Miss Jones, however, was the nature of the human beings whom she was sent to nurse. Sin and wickedness, she said, had hitherto been only names to her. Now she was plunged into a sink of human corruption. The foul language, the drunkenness, the vicious habits, the bodily and mental degradation on all sides appalled her. The wards, she said in her first letter from the workhouse, are “like Dante's Inferno.” “Una and the Lion”[80] was the title given by Miss Nightingale to her account of Agnes Jones and her paupers, “far more untamable than lions.” She had, it is true, the help of twelve trained nurses, devoted alike to her and to their work; but there were 1200 inmates, and of the other “nurses” some were probationers of an indifferent class, and the rest “pauper nurses,” of whom Miss Jones had to dismiss 35 in the first few months for drunkenness. Then, the standard of workhouse cleanliness was sadly low. She found that the men wore the same shirts for seven weeks. Bed-clothes were sometimes not washed for months. The diet was hopelessly meagre compared to a hospital standard. It is “Scutari over again,” wrote Miss Nightingale, and Miss Jones was strengthened by the thought that the disciple was experiencing some of the difficulties which had beset the Mistress. By way of smoothing things over, Miss Nightingale had written to the governor of the workhouse saying, in effect, that the eyes of the world were upon him as the leader in a great reform; and he “seemed so gratified and flattered by your letter,” reported Miss Jones. Miss Nightingale was constant in advice and encouragement to her disciple. “No one ever helps and encourages me as you do.” “I could never pull through without you.” “God bless you for all your kindness.” Such expressions show how welcome[129] and how unfailing was Miss Nightingale's help. And in every detail she was consulted. There was all the friction which usually accompanies a new experiment. There were disputes of every kind, and all were referred to Miss Nightingale—sometimes by Mr. Rathbone, sometimes by Miss Jones, sometimes by both. When things seemed critical, Mr. Rathbone would come up to see Miss Nightingale in person; on less serious occasions he would write. Miss Nightingale and Dr. Sutherland would then sit as a kind of Conciliation Board, and see how matters could be adjusted. In one of Dr. Sutherland's draft judgments submitted for Miss Nightingale's concurrence there is a blank left for her to fill, as the note explains, with “soft sawder.” His breezy manner may sometimes have been of comfort to his friend. On one occasion, when everything at Liverpool seemed to be at sixes and sevens, his note to Miss Nightingale was: “I don't despair by any means. The entire proceeding has in it the elements of an Irish row, for they are all more or less Hibernian there, and they will cool down.” And so they did. Miss Jones, who was at first a little too stiff-necked, soon found out a more excellent way, and there is “the Nightingale touch” in many of her later reports. “To-day they were a little cross, but I got my way all the same.” She is “much amused at the manner in which she now gets all she asks for.” She suggests things. She is laughed at. She persists. A decent interval is allowed to elapse; and then the things are suggested to her by the officials; she says the suggestions are excellent, and the things are done. It is obvious to Miss Nightingale and Dr. Sutherland that sooner or later the powers of the Lady Superintendent must be better defined; obvious, too, that the worthless probationers and drunken pauper “nurses” must be cleared out; but that is just one of the things that the experiment is meant to prove, and meanwhile it is enough to drive in the thin end of the wedge. So well does Miss Jones do her work that opinion, in the workhouse and outside, begins even to be impatient for the thicker end. The experiment has so far been limited to the male wards. The doctors go to Miss Jones and ask eagerly when she and more Nightingale nurses are to be given charge of the female[130] wards also. Old women who go in to see their husbands or brothers report wonderful changes in the House since “the London nurses” came. Visiting ladies report to the same effect. The experiment is becoming popular; and the Liverpool Vestry begins to wonder whether the cost hitherto borne by Mr. Rathbone's private purse should not be thrown upon the rates. Miss Nightingale has good cause to be pleased. She has been throwing herself into the work, not only in order to make the particular experiment a success, but also because she wants to use it as a lever for promoting larger reforms.


Liverpool had shown the way, and Miss Nightingale resolved in her own mind that the way should be followed in London. The struggle was long and arduous; the fortune of political war went at a critical moment against her; the victory of 1867 was only partial, and indeed there are other parts of her designs which even to this day await fruition. But the insight with which from the very first, as her Papers show, she seized the essential positions was masterly. I can understand how it was that Mr. Charles Villiers, not usually given to such outbursts of admiration, exclaimed to a friend: “I delight to read the Nightingale's song about it all. If any of them had the tenth part of her vigour of mind we might expect something.”

The opening move in her campaign was made in December 1864. There had been an inquest on the death of one Timothy Daly, which had figured in the newspapers as “Horrible Treatment of a Pauper.” The facts, as ultimately sifted, were not in this particular case as bad as they were painted in the press, but the circumstances were distressing and public opinion was excited. The situation was in that favourable condition for moving Ministers when there is a feeling in the air that “something must be done.” Miss Nightingale seized the opportunity to open communications with the President of the Poor Law Board, Mr. Villiers. She did not in this first letter disclose her whole scheme, though she said just enough to show that she had considered the subject in its larger bearings. She knew the art of[131] beginning on a moderate, and even a humble, note. She presumed to write because the case involved a question of nursing, in which matter she had had some practical experience; she had, moreover, been “put in trust by her fellow-countrymen with the means of training nurses.” She described what was to be done in the Liverpool Infirmary by a Matron who had been trained under the “Nightingale Fund,” and she invited the Minister's attention to the possibility of preventing the scandals, with which the newspapers were ringing, by starting some scheme of a like kind in London. This letter, in the composition of which Dr. Sutherland had a hand, went straight to its mark. Mr. Villiers at once replied (Dec. 31, 1864) that he would like to communicate with Miss Nightingale personally on the subject. In January the interview took place, and this was the beginning of a long series of personal and written communications between them during the next few years. On one occasion early in 1865 Mr. Villiers, being prevented by official business from keeping an appointment with Miss Nightingale, begged her to receive in his place his right-hand man, Mr. H. B. Farnall, Poor Law Inspector for the Metropolitan district. Mr. Farnall called, and he and Miss Nightingale became as thick as conspirators in no time. For Poor Law purposes he soon became the Chief of her Staff. Mr. Farnall was a man after her own heart. He not only knew the facts with which he had to deal, but he felt them, with something of her “divine impatience.” “It's intolerable to me,” he said, “to know that there are some 12,000 gasping and miserable sick poor whom we might solace and perhaps in some 5000 cases save, and yet that we have to let them wait while the world gets ready to get out of bed and think about it all.” He was a keen and broadminded reformer, and Miss Nightingale's ideas were upon lines which he too had considered. He was an old official hand, but he hated official obstruction: “all this is treason to King Red Tape, but I know that the old King is always happy after a change, though he gets very red while the change progresses.” Miss Nightingale instantly set her new ally to work. Here, as in all that she undertook, she knew that the first thing needful was to collect the facts.[132] She drew up a schedule of inquiries, to be filled up with regard to all the sick-wards and infirmaries in London. “I will immediately issue your Forms,” wrote Mr. Farnall (Feb. 16, 1865). He required them to be filled up in duplicate, and Miss Nightingale's set of them is preserved amongst her Papers. Throughout the year she and Mr. Farnall were engaged in the work of inspiring and incensing Mr. Villiers in the direction of radical reform. He was throughout very willing, but he was becoming an old man, he had many other things to think about, and he was apt to see lions in the path. Moreover, not all the officials at the Poor Law Board were reformers; there were those, more highly placed than Mr. Farnall, who were of a very different opinion; and some of the medical officers were inclined to dispute the necessity of any radical changes. However, on the subject of workhouse nursing, Mr. Villiers promptly authorized Mr. Farnall to press upon the Guardians the importance of employing competent nurses, and he told the House of Commons (May 5) that “in consequence of communications lately received at the Poor Law Board from Miss Nightingale, who was now taking much interest in the matter,” he was hopeful that great reforms in nursing might come about. She, however, knew perfectly well that the only way to such reform was by reform also in administration and finance. In the following month Mr. Farnall persuaded his Chief to insinuate into an innocent little “Poor Law Board Continuation Bill,” a clause which would enable the Board to compel Guardians to improve their workhouses; but the clause was struck out, Mr. Farnall was disappointed, and Miss Nightingale wrote to reassure him. They must work all the harder to secure, not by a side-wind, but by a direct move in the next session of Parliament, a full and far-reaching measure of reform. “Your kind note,” said Mr. Farnall (July 3), “has done me a world of good; there is not a single expression or hope in it which I cannot make my own. So we hope together for next year's ripened fruit. I hope, too, that we may really taste it. I pledge myself to you to relax in nothing till the task is done. It is something to live for, and something to have heard you say that such a victory will some day be claimed by me. It is a pleasant[133] thing to think of, and I shall think of it as a soldier thinks of his Flag.”

So, then, Miss Nightingale set to work, with the help of Mr. Farnall and Dr. Sutherland, in elaborating a scheme for 1866. There are several drafts in her handwriting for the Memorandum finally submitted to Mr. Villiers, and many notes and emendations by Dr. Sutherland. The scheme was sent also (at a later date) to Mr. Chadwick (one of the few survivors of the famous Poor Law Commission of 1834) in order that he might submit it to John Stuart Mill, whom Miss Nightingale sought to enlist in the cause.[81] The essential points and considerations were these:—

A. To insist on the great principle of separating the Sick, Insane, “Incurable,” and, above all, the Children, from the usual population of the Metropolis.

B. To advocate a single Central Administration.

C. To place the Sick, Insane, etc., under a distinct administration, supported by a “General Hospital Rate” to be levied for this purpose over the whole Metropolitan area.

These are the ABC of the reform required.

(A) So long as a sick man, woman, or child is considered administratively to be a pauper to be repressed, and not a fellow-creature to be nursed into health, so long will these most shameful disclosures have to be made. The care and government of the sick poor is a thing totally different from the government of paupers. Why do we have Hospitals in order to cure, and Workhouse Infirmaries in order not to cure? Taken solely from the point of view of preventing pauperism, what a stupidity and anomaly this is!… The past system of mixing up all kinds of poor in workhouses will never be submitted to in future. The very first thing wanted is classification and separation.

(B) Uniformity of system is absolutely necessary, both for efficiency and for economy.

(C) For the purpose of providing suitable establishments for the care and treatment of the Sick, Insane, etc., consolidation and a General Rate are essential. To provide suitable treatment in each Workhouse would involve an expenditure which even London could not bear. The entire Medical Relief of London should be under one central management which would know where vacant beds were to be found, and be able so to distribute[134] the Sick, etc., as to use all the establishments in the most economical way.

Miss Nightingale elaborated her views in detail, going into the questions of Hospitals, Nursing, Workhouse Schools, etc. The cardinal point was what Mr. Farnall spoke of to her as “your Hospital and Asylum Rate.” The Minister was favourable to the idea. “I have conferred with Mr. Villiers,” wrote Mr. Farnall (Dec. 12), “and he has decided on adopting your scheme. He thinks it will be popular and just, and I think so also, but I think too that it will be the means of my carrying out a further reform some of these days. That is my hope and belief. If your plans are carried my struggle is half over. Under these circumstances I shall to-morrow commence a list of facts for you on which those who are to support your plan in print will be able to hang a considerable amount of flesh, for I shall furnish a very nice skeleton.” Miss Nightingale had already, through an intermediary, interested the editor of the Times in the matter, and he had been to see Mr. Villiers. Further public support came from the Association above mentioned (p. 124), which sent a deputation to the Poor Law Board. Mr. Villiers in reply (April 14, 1866) foreshadowed legislation on Miss Nightingale's lines, and he appointed Mr. Farnall and another of her friends, Dr. Angus Smith, to inspect all the Infirmaries. Their Report has already been cited. Public opinion was ripe for radical reform; but the Whig Ministry was tottering, no fresh contentious legislation was deemed advisable, and in June 1866 Mr. Villiers was out. The opportunity had passed, and Miss Nightingale was left crying, “Alas! Alas! Alas!”


She was not one, however, to waste much time in empty lamentations. She had to begin over again, that was all; and she wrote at once, as we have heard,[82] to the new Minister. She also procured an introduction for Mr. Farnall to Lord Derby, and the Prime Minister seemed sympathetic. Mr. Hardy had answered politely, but did not follow up his letter, and his first move seemed sinister. He dismissed[135] Mr. Farnall from Whitehall and sent him to the Yorkshire Poor Law District. The anti-reform party was believed to have gained the ascendant. But now a fortunate thing happened. Mr. Hardy made a speech in which he implied that the existing laws were adequate, if properly enforced, to meet the case. Technically there was a measure of truth in this statement, but in practice it was fallacious;[83] and in any case Mr. Hardy's remark was a reflection on his predecessor's administration. This nettled Mr. Villiers greatly; he was “not going to sit down under it,” he said; he became red-hot for reform; very much on the alert, too, to trip his successor up. Miss Nightingale did not fail to add fuel to the flame. Mr. Villiers corresponded with her at great length; saw her repeatedly; reported all he was able to learn of how things were going at Whitehall, and begged her to do the like for him. “The public are led to infer,” he said to her, “that nothing was needed but a touch from Mr. Hardy's wand to set all things straight.” The public, thought Miss Nightingale also, would soon discover his mistake. Mr. Hardy would find that he had either to do nothing, or to legislate; unless indeed the Tory Ministry were overthrown first.

Now, Miss Nightingale was a Whig, and she, too, would have been glad enough to see the Tories out and Mr. Villiers in again at the Poor Law Board. But there was something that she cared about a great deal more, namely, that the neglect of the sick poor should be remedied at the earliest possible moment; and as the Tories might after all weather the storm, she must see what she could do to get a Poor Law Bill out of them. In the autumn Mr. Hardy appointed a Committee, mainly composed of doctors, to report “upon the requisite amount of space, and other matters, in relation to workhouses and workhouse infirmaries.” One of the “other matters” was nursing, and the Committee, instead of expressing an opinion on the subject themselves, asked Miss Nightingale to send them a Paper. In this Memorandum, dated Jan. 19, 1867, she made full use of her opportunity; for she pointed out that the question of[136] nursing could not, either in logic or in effective practice, be separated from that of administration. “In the recent inquiries,” she wrote, “the point which strikes an experienced hospital manager is not the individual cases which have been made so much of (though these are striking enough), but the view which the best Matrons, the best Masters, and other officials of the workhouses give from their own lips (in evidence) of what they considered their duties. These bore as little reference to what are usually considered (not by me alone, but by all Christendom) the duties of hospital superintendents as they bear to the duties of railway superintendents. Your Committee is probably well acquainted with the administration of the Assistance Publique at Paris. No great stretch of imagination is required to conceive what they think of the system or no system reigning here.[84] I allude to the heaping up aged, infirm, sick, able-bodied, lunatics, and sometimes children in the same building instead of having, as in every other Christian country, your asylum for aged, your hospital for sick, your lunatic asylum, your union school, &c., &c., &c., each under its proper administration, and your able-bodied quite apart from any of these categories. This point is of such vital importance to the introduction and successful working of an efficient nursing system that I shall illustrate it.…” And she went on to outline her general scheme. In accordance with her usual custom, Miss Nightingale had copies of her Paper struck off separately, and circulated them among influential people. The Committee had given her a platform, but its own Report was only of subsidiary value. She put her point of view with a touch of exaggeration characteristic of her familiar letters to Captain Galton, one of the members of the Committee. “I look upon the cubic space as the least of the evils—indeed as rather a good, for it is a very good thing to suffocate the pauper sick out of their misery.” Meanwhile she thought it wholesome that the “ins” should know that the “outs” did not mean to let the subject of Poor Law Reform be shelved. “I have had a great deal of[137] clandestine correspondence,” she wrote to a friend who might pass the information on (Oct. 28, 1866), “with my old loves at the Poor Law Board these last two months. The belief among the old loves is that the new master is bent on—doing nothing. There is only one thing of which I am quite sure. And that is that Mr. Villiers will lead Mr. Gathorne Hardy no easy life next February.”


Mr. Hardy kept his own counsel and made no sign. As the session drew near, Miss Nightingale became anxious and she poured in letters and memoranda upon him. In one of these she made what turned out to be an unfortunate mistake. She was too frank. She was pressing upon Mr. Hardy's attention the importance of the Liverpool experiment, and in the course of her exposition she said incidentally that there had been difficulties. Mr. Hardy misinterpreted the remark and made use of it to explain in the House of Commons why he did not propose to take any direct action in the matter of nursing reform. Indirectly, however, his proposals did a great deal. On February 8, 1867, Mr. Hardy introduced his Bill. So, legislation had, after all, been found necessary to meet the demand that something must be done. To that extent, then, Mr. Villiers had no need to make Mr. Hardy's life a burden to him. The question was, How much did the Bill do? and was what it did, good or bad? Those who had been working for reform were anxious to know what Miss Nightingale thought. “I should amazingly like to hear,” wrote Mr. Villiers to her, “what you say to this seven months' child born in the workhouse at Whitehall.” Mr. Ernest Hart's Association, whose attitude was summed up by Mr. Villiers as “silenced but not satisfied,” applied for her opinion. Her journalistic friends wanted hints. Dr. Sutherland was told, in a note requiring his instant attention, that “X. wants to know in what tone he is to write his article in the Daily News,” and that “Y. will write an article in the Pall Mall in any sense we wish.” Now, whenever a Bill is introduced touching a question which demands, or admits of, large[138] reforms, there are two points of view from which it may be regarded. One man compares what is proposed with the existing state of things, and asks himself, Is there any decided improvement? Another, comparing the proposals with what might exist in the future, asks, Does the Bill approximate to the ideal? The former is the view which “practical politicians” take; the latter, the view which is apt to be taken by administrative enthusiasts. Miss Nightingale's administrative mind saw chiefly, and at first saw only, the points at which, and the measure in which, Mr. Hardy's Bill fell short of logical perfection. It was a tentative measure; it was largely permissive; it did something to separate the sick and the children from the ordinary paupers, but it did not do all. Moreover, so far as direct and express enactment went, it did nothing to improve workhouse nursing. Miss Nightingale pronounced the Bill, therefore, “a humbug.” Its principles were “none”; its details, “beastly.” She tried hard to get the Bill amended and extended. Sir Harry Verney, who might perhaps be described as “Member of Parliament for Miss Nightingale,” gave every assistance that was possible; and Mr. Mill, inspired largely by his old friend Mr. Chadwick (with whom Miss Nightingale also was in constant correspondence), took a prominent part in the debates to the same end. But he seldom pressed his points to a division, and there was little life in the opposition. Mr. Villiers was as critical as he could reasonably be, but the real fact was that the Bill made a great and a surprising step in the direction which Miss Nightingale had pressed upon him. These were days in which Disraeli was educating his party in the political art of dishing the Whigs, and the difficulty was, as Mr. Jowett wrote to Miss Nightingale, to discover any clear difference between a Tory and a Radical. Mr. Mill, with the candour that became a philosopher, “had no doubt that the Bill would effect a vast improvement”; Mr. Villiers, with the determination of the politician to score a point, admitted that “the Bill would set the ball rolling,” and reflected that anything might presently come from a party which had been converted “from pure Conservatism to Household Suffrage in 48 hours”; and Mr. Hardy, in his conduct of the measure,[139] was careful to conciliate the other side. He agreed to all the objections “in principle,” pleaded the difficulty of doing everything in a moment, and claimed for his Bill that it was “only a beginning.” And so, in fact, it turned out; while, even at the time, the reforms made by the Bill, which became an Act on March 29, 1867, were sufficiently beneficent. The whole of the unions and parishes in London were formed, by an Order under the Act, into one district, “The Metropolitan Asylum District,” for the treatment of insane, fever, and small-pox cases, which had hitherto been dealt with in the workhouses. Separate infirmaries were formed for the non-infectious sick, with a greatly enlarged cubic space per inmate. Dispensaries were established throughout the metropolis. Above all, the “Metropolitan Common Poor Fund” (the “Hospital and Asylum Rate” of Miss Nightingale's Memorandum) was established, and to it were charged the maintenance of the “asylums,” medicines, etc., and the maintenance of pauper children in separate schools. When the battle was lost—or won—Miss Nightingale counted up the gains, and said, “This is a beginning; we shall get more in time.”[85] And such has been the case. The Act of 1867 was the foundation on which many improvements in medical relief under the Poor Law have been laid,[86] and the principles implied in the Act—the separation of the sick from the paupers, and in the case of London the making medical relief a common charge—are likely to receive yet further recognition. They are the principles for which Miss Nightingale contended. Her influence in forming the public opinion which made the legislation of 1867 possible was referred to in both Houses of Parliament.[87]



Soon after the Act of 1867 came into operation, to the improvement of London workhouses, the pioneer of improved workhouse nursing died in Liverpool. The work of Miss Agnes Jones, whose early difficulties have been described above, had gone ahead with ever-increasing success. The difficulties indeed continued, and throughout 1867 Miss Nightingale was still busy in giving encouragement and advice; but the results of the work were so satisfactory that in March 1867 the Liverpool Vestry decided to extend the trained nursing to the female wards and to throw the whole cost upon the rates. When the strain of the increased work was at its severest point, Miss Jones was attacked by fever, and she died on February 19, 1868. To Good Words in the following June Miss Nightingale contributed a touching paper in memory of her friend and disciple:—

She died as she had lived, at her post in one of the largest workhouse infirmaries in the Kingdom. She lived the life, and died the death, of the saints and martyrs; though the greatest sinner would not have been more surprised than she to have heard this said of herself. In less than three years she had reduced one of the most disorderly hospital populations in the world to something like Christian discipline, such as the police themselves wondered at. She had converted a vestry to the conviction of the economy as well as humanity of nursing pauper sick by trained nurses. She had converted the Poor-Law Board—a body, perhaps, not usually given to much enthusiasm. She had disarmed all opposition, all sectarian zealotism; so that Roman Catholic and Unitarian, High Church and Low Church, all literally rose up and called her “blessed.” All, of all shades of religious creed, seemed to have merged their differences in her, seeing in her the one true essential thing, compared with which they acknowledged their differences to be as nothing. And aged paupers made verses in her honour after her death.

In less than three years—the time generally given to the ministry on earth of that Saviour whom she so earnestly strove closely to follow—she did all this. She had the gracefulness, the wit, the unfailing cheerfulness—qualities so remarkable but so much overlooked in our Saviour's life. She had the absence of all asceticism, or “mortification,” for mortification's sake, which characterized His work, and any real work in the present[141] day as in His day. And how did she do all this? She was not, when a girl, of any conspicuous ability, except that she had cultivated in herself to the utmost a power of getting through business in a short time, without slurring it over and without fid-fadding at it;—real business—her Father's business. She was always filled with the thought that she must be about her “Father's business.” How can any undervalue business-habits? as if anything could be done without them. She could do, and she did do, more of her Father's business in six hours than ordinary women do in six months, or than most of even the best women do in six days.… What she went through during her workhouse life is scarcely known but to God and to one or two. Yet she said that she had “never been so happy in all her life.” All the last winter she had under her charge above 50 nurses and probationers, above 150 pauper scourers, from 1290 to 1350 patients, being from two to three hundred more than the number of beds. All this she had to provide for and arrange for, often receiving an influx of patients without a moment's warning. She had to manage and persuade the patients to sleep three and four in two beds; sometimes six, or even eight children had to be put in one bed; and being asked on one occasion whether they did not “kick one another,” they answered, “Oh, no, ma'am, we're so comfor'ble.” Poor little things, they scarcely remembered ever to have slept in a bed before. But this is not the usual run of workhouse life. And, if any one would know what are the lowest depths of human vice and misery, would see the festering mass of decay of living human bodies and human souls, and then would try what one loving soul, filled with the spirit of her God, can do to let in the light of God into this hideous well (worse than the well of Cawnpore), to bind up the wounds, to heal the broken-hearted, to bring release to the captives—let her study the ways, and follow in the steps of this one young, frail woman, who has died to show us the way—blessed in her death as in her life.

The death of Miss Jones involved Miss Nightingale in much anxiety and additional responsibility. “The whole work of finding her successor has fallen upon me,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (March 20); “and in addition they expect me to manage the Workhouse at Liverpool from my bedroom.” And again (April 30): “I have seven or eight hours a day additional writing for the last two months about this Liverpool workhouse.” The bundle of correspondence on the subject makes this statement quite credible. “I believe I have found a successor[88] at last. I don't think[142] anything in the course of my long life ever struck me so much as the deadlock we have been placed in by the death of one pupil—combined, you know, with the enormous jaw, the infinite female ink which England pours forth on ‘Woman's Work.’ It used to be said that people gave their blood to their country. Now they give their ink.” Miss Nightingale's first concern was to put heart and strength into the nurses who were now deprived of their Chief. Writing as their “affectionate friend and fellow-sufferer,” she called upon them to fight the good fight without flinching. “Many battles which seemed desperate while the General lived have been fought and won by the soldiers who, when they saw their General fall, were determined to save his name and win the ground he had died for. And shall we fight a heavenly battle, a battle to cure the bodies and souls of God's poor, less well than men fight an earthly battle to kill and wound?” “The nurses have been splendid,” she was able to report presently. Miss Nightingale concluded her paper in Good Words with a stirring appeal to others—Poor Law officials, on their part, and devoted women, on theirs—to go and do likewise. “The Son of God goes forth to war, who follows in his train? Oh, daughters of God, are there so few to answer?” The appeal awoke a response in at least one heart. One of the most valued of Miss Nightingale's disciples ascribed her call to this article in Good Words. “Some of us,” she says, “who were children in the days of the Crimean War when Miss Nightingale's most famous work was done, were responsible girls at home, nursing as occasion arose in our families, by the light of her Notes, to the music of Longfellow's verse, when once again she came before us, flashing out of her retirement with the trumpet-call of ‘Una.’” Many are now called to such work, but few, I suppose, are chosen—in the sense of being found worthy to do the work in the spirit of Agnes Jones. The Liverpool experiment, rendered successful by her devotion, rapidly made its mark. In ten years' time the system of employing pauper inmates as nurses had been entirely superseded, in all sick asylums and separate infirmaries, by paid nurses. In 1897 the employment of pauper nurses in any workhouse was forbidden, and the training of the paid[143] nurses has been continuously improved.[89] To Miss Nightingale, here as in all her undertakings, each point gained was only a step on the road to perfectibility. Among some communings with herself, written in 1867, there is this entry: “Easter Sunday. Never think that you have done anything effectual in nursing in London till you nurse, not only the sick poor in workhouses, but those at home.”




Truly these poor people will have cause to bless you long after English Viceroys and dynasties are of the past.—Sir Bartle Frere (Letter to Miss Nightingale, May 6, 1869).

When Sidney Herbert died, his work as an army reformer was in part arrested because he had never put in what Miss Nightingale called “the main-spring.” He had failed to reform the War Office. There had thus been no such effective organization set up as would ensure even the permanent possession of ground already gained and much less a continuous advance. There was now some danger of a like state of things in connection with Public Health in India, and Miss Nightingale turned her thoughts to avert it.

There had been many improvements; but there was as yet no consistent scheme of organization, and in some respects there had already been backsliding. The Sanitary Commissions had been reduced on the ground of expense to two officers (a President and a Secretary) in each case, and a further retrenchment was now in contemplation. Under each Local Government there was to be one sanitary officer, and it was proposed that this officer should be the Inspector-General of Prisons. A “Sanitary Commissioner with the Government of India” would remain, who would not combine that duty with an inspectorship of prisons; but such a scheme would assuredly not supply any “mainspring” for sanitary improvement. Meanwhile Sir John Lawrence's term of office was coming to an end; and Miss Nightingale, regarding him as the indispensable man, looked[145] upon the end of his viceroyalty as an event almost comparable to the death of Sidney Herbert. The same error must not be made a second time. Before Sir John Lawrence retired, the mainspring of the machinery for sanitary progress in India must be inserted. Miss Nightingale had a clear policy in her mind, and she secured most of her points with a celerity and a completeness which entitle this episode to rank among her most brilliant campaigns. It will make the moves more easily intelligible if the main points are indicated at once. What Miss Nightingale sought to attain was an efficient machine which would turn out sanitary improvement in accordance with the best knowledge of the day and of which the working would be subject to the propelling force of public opinion. She, therefore, set herself to secure, if by any means she could, (1) an executive sanitary authority in India, (2) an expert controlling (and, incidentally, an inspiring) authority in London, and (3) the publication of an annual report on the work done, so as to make both parts of the machinery amenable to public inspection.

On the first of these points, Miss Nightingale was doomed to some disappointment. Neither at the time with which we are here concerned, nor in her later years, nor yet to the present day, has any supreme and executive sanitary machinery been established in India. “It was true,” said the Secretary of State during a debate in the House of Lords on Indian sanitation in 1913 (June 9), “that the present system fell very far short of a great independent Sanitary Department supreme over the Provincial Governments and forming one of the main departments of the Government of India.” That was Miss Nightingale's ideal at this time, though in later years, as we shall learn,[90] she recognized that sanitary progress in India could not be turned out by clockwork; but at the opposite pole stood the scheme by which she was threatened in 1867 for consigning sanitary administration in the Local Governments to a sub-head of the prison department. She had the satisfaction before Sir John Lawrence left India of seeing another scheme adopted, which was at any rate as far removed from the Prison as from her Ideal. On the other two points, stated above,[146] she was at the time completely successful. She had in all this a valuable ally; and it was her way to see something like special providence in fortunate circumstances. The most logical mind sometimes admits exceptions; yet there was in fact no exception. Providence, according to her belief, is Law; and it had become a law that men interested in her interests should go to her. Hence it was that she made at this time a friendship with one whose disinterested devotion to the cause of sanitary reform in India equalled her own, and whose co-operation was to prove of the greatest value. The new friend was Sir Bartle Frere.


For a year and more the question of the Public Health Service in India had slumbered, so far as organization was concerned. Sir John Lawrence's dispatch had been lost at the India Office for some months (p. 109). Then, when it had been found and Miss Nightingale had drafted the reply, Lord de Grey had gone out of office before the reply could be sent (p. 110). She had opened communications with his successor, Lord Cranborne (p. 114); but his stay at the India Office was brief, for when Disraeli's Franchise Bill was introduced, he resigned. He was succeeded by Sir Stafford Northcote, with whom as yet Miss Nightingale had no acquaintance. She had been diligent in writing to Sir John Lawrence, who continued to ask her advice and send her papers; but she had held her hand on this side. The reason was that all her friends told her that “the Tories would be out in a week.” Dr. Sutherland, greatly daring, went further and talked treason against Sir John Lawrence: “He is our worst enemy,” and “we had better wait.” Miss Nightingale ascribed this ribaldry to a desire of Dr. Sutherland to be off cholera-hunting in the Mediterranean, and reproached him in some impromptu rhymes.[91] Sir John[147] Lawrence was her hero. If he did amiss sometimes (as she had to admit), she put it down, I suppose, to his Council, with whom he was notoriously not on good terms; whatever was done aright was his doing. And meanwhile the weeks passed and the Tories did not go out; they looked, on the contrary, very much like staying in. Miss Nightingale determined to wait no longer. She announced her determination in a letter to Captain Galton (May 28, 1867). He was in touch with Indian sanitary business as a member of the War Office Sanitary Committee, to which such business was often referred, and she attached considerable weight to his judgment. “Our Indian affairs,” she wrote, “are getting as drunk as they can be”; she was resolved to have them put straight. She had been “strongly advised to communicate direct with Sir Stafford Northcote”; advised, I imagine, by Mr. Jowett (for was not Sir Stafford a Balliol man, and therefore specially amenable to reason?) What did Captain Galton advise? He agreed that things were not going well, and was glad that she meant to move. He would give her an introduction, if she liked, to Sir Stafford, and he advised her to see Sir Bartle Frere, “as I fancy you could make him useful.” He had just returned from the governorship of Bombay, and had been given a seat on the India Council in London. A fortnight later (June 14) he and Miss Nightingale met:—

(Miss Nightingale to Captain Galton.) 35 South Street, June 16 [1867]. I have seen Sir Bartle Frere. He came on Friday by his own appointment. And we had a great talk. He impressed me wonderfully—more than any Indian I have ever seen except Sir John Lawrence; and I seemed to learn more in an hour from him upon Indian administration and the way it is going than I did from Ellis in six months, or from Strachey in two days, or from Indian Councils (Secretaries of State and Royal Commissions and all) in six years. I hope Sir B. Frere will be of use to us. I have not yet applied to you to put me into communication with Sir S. Northcote. Because why? Your Committee won't sit. It won't sit on Monday because Monday is Whit Monday. And Tuesday is Whit Tuesday. And Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. And Thursday is Ascension Day. And Friday is Good Friday. And Saturday is the Drawing Room. And Sunday is Sunday. And that's the way that British business is done. Now you are come back, you must[148] send for the police and make the Committee do something. As for Sutherland, I never see him. Malta is the world. And Gibraltar is the “next world.” And India is that little island in the Pacific like Honolulu.

Miss Nightingale must have impressed Sir Bartle Frere as greatly as he had impressed her. He now became one of her constant visitors, and a busy correspondence began between them. He and his family became friends too of Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale, whom they visited at Embley. “There are amongst his papers for 1867 and the five following years considerably more than a hundred letters, short or long, from Miss Nightingale to him, mostly upon sanitary questions affecting India.”[92] The letters from him to her are not less numerous. “I will make 35 South Street the India Office,” he said, “while this affair is pending.” Miss Nightingale took note of his conversations, principally for communication to Dr. Sutherland, but also for her own guidance. But if she had much to learn from him, he also must have found something to learn, and some inspiration to derive, from her. The work which she had done for the Royal Commission had given her a great knowledge of sanitary, or rather insanitary, details in India; and on the principles of sanitation she was an acknowledged expert. Her acquaintance with the official history of the Indian Public Health question was unique, for no other person had so continuously been in intimate touch with it. The clearness of her mind and her breadth of view impressed every one who saw her. And then something must be allowed, in considering her successive “conquests” (as Mr. Jowett used playfully to call them), to the personal factor. The administrators and ministers who sought or were invited to audience of her would have been more (or less) than men if they had not felt a certain pleased curiosity in meeting this famous woman, who rose from an invalid's bed to receive them. Each of them speedily discovered that her enthusiastic devotion to humanitarian causes was equalled by her soundness of judgment, and that remarkable powers of brain were accompanied by all of a woman's graciousness[149] “She is a noble-minded woman,” said Mr. Lowe of her, “and so charming.”

Encouraged by Sir Bartle Frere's sympathy, Miss Nightingale set to work in earnest. The first thing was to obtain a colourable starting-point. This she found in some Indian papers, sent to her by friends on the War Office Sanitary Committee, on the question of “Doors versus Windows.” She determined to attack simultaneously the Governor-General and the Secretary of State on this question. To the Governor-General she wrote immediately; but with regard to the India Office there was a preliminary difficulty. “Dr. Sutherland is so very etiquettish,” she wrote to Captain Galton (June 24, 1867), “that he says, But how are you to have seen these papers? I don't know. It seems to me that the cat has been out of the bag so long that it is no use tying the strings now. I will say, if you like, that Broadhead of Sheffield gave me £15 to steal them and to blow you up.[93] I am going ahead anyhow.” Captain Galton put aside Dr. Sutherland's etiquette. It had been an established practice for years, he said, as every official person knew, to send Indian sanitary papers to Miss Nightingale; and in the very improbable event of anybody objecting in this case, he, Captain Galton, would assume full responsibility. Miss Nightingale then proceeded to draw up an indictment, and to suggest reform, basing her case upon the “Doors versus Windows” papers. Upon the merits of the controversy I am happily not called upon to offer an opinion. To Miss Nightingale and the War Office Sanitary Committee the ventilation of barracks or hospitals by open doors was a pestilential heresy; to the Government of India it was the ark of the covenant for salvation in hot weather. Sir John Lawrence in reply to Miss Nightingale's remonstrance told her bluntly that nothing but an imperative order from home would make him close the doors, and even then that he would first send the most energetic protest. But, though she attached some importance to the matter on its merits, her real object was something different. She objected to the manner in which the case had been handled.[150] The sanitary experts at home had said that new barracks and hospitals should be ventilated by open windows, and their report to that effect had been sent to India. Then the matter had been referred in succession to the Government of India, the local governments, sanitary commissions, medical authorities, military authorities, district authorities, and then to the Government of India again. Next it had come back to London, where the experts were still of their original opinion. There seemed no reason why the travels of the “Doors and Windows” papers should ever come to an end. If every sanitary question were to be treated in the same way, no sanitary progress could be made; and the idea of “sanitary administration by universal suffrage” was impossible. Sir John Lawrence hardly made proper allowance for her way of putting things when he assured her in reply that she was mistaken in thinking that such matters were referred to a vote in India. The case showed conclusively, it seemed to her, that the time had come for organizing the health service on a business-like footing. She suggested schemes on the basis of the Three Points already defined—a Sanitary Department in India to do the work; a Sanitary Department at the India Office to control the work; and annual publication of what work had been done. With regard to the second point, she regarded the War-Office-cum-India-Office Sanitary Committee as only a makeshift, as we have seen.[94] She knew whom she wanted at the head of a separate India Office Sanitary Department. “If only,” she had written to Captain Galton (July 24), “we could get a Public Health Department in the India Office to ourselves with Sir B. Frere at the head of it, our fortunes would be made.”


Such was the substance of successive letters which Miss Nightingale now sent to the Secretary of State. The first of them is an admirable document; closely reasoned; with a pleasant pungency of phrasing here and there, such as might occur in a despatch by Lord Salisbury; with a touch of[151] emotion kept well in reserve. She begged the minister to go back to the point at which the matter had been left when Lord de Grey went out, and “to put the Indian Health Service once for all on a satisfactory footing. This would indeed be a noble service for a Secretary of State to render to India.” She submitted her letter to Sir Bartle Frere, who pronounced it excellent. He carried it off, and delivered it to the minister in person. This was on July 27. On July 30 Sir Stafford Northcote answered, promising early attention to the subject, and adding, “I attach great weight to any suggestions from one who is so well qualified to speak with authority as yourself.” Without going into the question, he made the general remark that “due regard should be had to local information.” This criticism was just what she wanted; it afforded an opening for unfolding her schemes in greater detail. Sir Stafford Northcote must have been impressed by the letters; for he gave the matter immediate study, and then, on August 19, wrote to know if he might call for “a little conversation.” Miss Nightingale told Mr. Jowett of this new opening. “I am delighted to hear,” he wrote (Aug. 20), “that you are casting your toils about Sir Stafford Northcote. Do you know that he was elected a scholar of Balliol with A. H. Clough? I think that you may do him as well as the cause immense service. May I talk to you as I would to one of our undergraduates? Take care not to exaggerate to him (I mention this because it is really difficult to avoid when you are deeply interested). You will make him feel, I have no doubt, that you can really help him. Of course he will have heard things said against you by the officials; and you will have to produce just the opposite impression to these reports. But I don't really suppose that the art of influencing others can be reduced to rules. I commend you and your work to God, and am quite sure that ‘it will be given you what to say,’ because (I am afraid this is very rationalistic) you know what you mean to say.” The interview (Aug. 20), somewhat dreaded on Miss Nightingale's side, had already taken place when Mr. Jowett's letter came. “Much more satisfactory to my hopes,” she wrote to Sir Bartle Frere (Aug. 21) “than I expected. I think you have imbued him with your views[152] on Indian administration more than you know. We went as fully into the whole subject as was possible in an hour, seeing that India is rather a big place.” Her notes of the conversation show that she had found the minister very keen and sympathetic. “I don't know,” she told Dr. Sutherland, “that he saw how afraid I was of him. For he kept his eyes tight shut all the time. And I kept mine wide open.” Afraid or not, she had done a great stroke of business:—

(Miss Nightingale to Captain Galton.) 35 South Street, August 22 [1867]. I saw Sir S. Northcote on Tuesday. He came of his own accord—which I think I partly owe to you. The result is (that is, if he does as he says) that there will be a Controlling Committee at the India Office for sanitary things with Sir B. Frere at the head and Sir H. Anderson at the tail, and your War Office Commission as the consulting body. As to the Public Health Service, I told him that we want the Executive Machinery in India to do it, and the Controlling Machinery at the I.O. to know that it is being done. The work of the Controlling Committee will really be introducing the elements of civilization into India. Sir S. N. said something about having Gen. Baker and Sir E. Perry on as members and an assistant-secretary to Sir H. Anderson. (I wish I could choose the members as I did in Sidney Herbert's time.) But I have the greatest faith in Sir B. Frere, and he asked me to let him bring Sir H. Anderson here; so we shall have the Chairman and the Secretary on our side. I liked Sir S. Northcote; but he appears to me to have much the same calibre of mind as Lord de Grey. He has none of the rapid, unerring perception of Sidney Herbert; none of the power of Sir J. Lawrence; none of the power and keenness of Sir B. Frere. He talks about “talking it all over with Lord Clinton.” Do you know Lord Clinton, and does he know anything about it? But my principal reason for writing to you now is this: I went as fully as I could with Sir S. N. into this, that no time should be lost in sending R. Engineers intended for service in India to examine and make themselves acquainted with improvements in sewerage, drainage, water-supply of towns, and in application of sewage to agriculture, and with improvements in Barrack and Hospital construction, etc., as carried out here. Now, there is no one but you who can properly advise Sir S. N. in this way. Pray do so.

Sir Stafford Northcote did all, and more than all, that at this interview he had promised. She was impressed by his[153] sincerity at the time. “I believe,” she told Dr. Sutherland, “he will carry out exactly what he consents to do.” But other friends advised her to leave nothing to good intentions, to strike while the iron was hot, and to continue jogging the minister's elbow until the things were actually done. Presently an occasion offered itself. The Governor-General had written her a long private letter about the ravages of cholera among the troops in the N.W. Provinces. She sent the substance of this letter to Sir Stafford Northcote, and invited him to concur in her opinion that such things ought not to be. But could they ever be prevented until the Public Health Service was placed on a proper footing? The minister, in acknowledging her letter (Oct. 18), said that, the pressure of other business being relaxed, he was now able to give full attention to sanitary questions, and that he would like to have another conversation. The interview was on October 23. On this occasion the minister came full-handed. He told her, first, as appears from her notes and letters, that he had definitely decided to appoint a Sanitary Committee at the India Office. He read out the list of names; with Sir Bartle Frere, according to promise, as chairman, and Sir H. Anderson as secretary. He then asked her advice with regard to the relations between this Committee and the War Office Sanitary Committee, for there was, as he explained (and as she knew only too well), great jealousy between the two offices. She advised that the India Office Committee should be the controlling and responsible body, and the War Office Committee consultative only; “but I shall be much surprised,” she wrote in explaining things to Captain Galton, “if Sir Bartle Frere does not refer many more matters to you than has previously been the case.” She had thus won the second of her Three Points.

The minister next handed to Miss Nightingale a dispatch dated August 16, which he had received from the Government of India, and to which an immediate answer was requested. This was not news to her (though she was doubtless too discreet to say so), for the Governor-General had also written to her on August 16 to like effect. In this dispatch the appointment of medical officers in each Local Government for the exclusive duty of Principal Health[154] Officers, paid by the Central Government, was suggested. The Secretary of State left the dispatch with Miss Nightingale, and requested her to favour him in writing with her views on the whole subject, suggesting, if she cared to do so, what answer should be sent to the Government of India. The new proposal of Sir John Lawrence's Government was not all or exactly what she wanted. The local Officers of Health would be advisory only; and the Commissioner with the Government of India would remain in a like position. What she had wanted was a distinct Executive Department, both central and local, for Public Health. Still, the appointment of State Officers of Health was a step in the right direction, and a great advance on the Prisons scheme. She must see to it that the better opinion was made to prevail, while Sir John Lawrence was still at the helm in India and the Secretary of State in London was friendly to her. The new policy would win some part of her First Point. It remained to secure Annual Health Reports; and the Secretary of State had given her an opening by inviting her to make suggestions at large.

She had now a spell of very hard work. At the end of it she had sent to Sir Stafford Northcote (1) a draft for immediate reply to the Indian Government, approving the appointment of the Health Officers. This was sent to India on November 29. (2) Secondly, a digest of the Indian Sanitary Question from 1859 to 1867. This was printed in a Blue-book issued by the Secretary of State in 1868. (3) Thirdly, a memorandum on the whole subject full of suggestions and advice. This was sent out to the Indian Government, and printed in the same Blue-book. It was printed anonymously, though there are tell-tale phrases (such as “The result will be the civilization of India”); the manuscript of the “review,” in Miss Nightingale's hand, is amongst her papers. (4) Fourthly, and principally, the heads of a dispatch on the whole subject which, she suggested, might be sent to the Government of India. “Of course I cannot say,” she wrote, “how far these heads may meet with your concurrence.” The heads, in her hand, are also amongst her papers, and a comparison of this manuscript with Sir Stafford Northcote's dispatch[155] of April 23, 1868, shows that they all met with his concurrence; they were adopted for the most part in her own words. The suggestions of this dispatch constitute one of Miss Nightingale's best services to the cause of Public Health in India. It begins with calling for a Report on Sanitary Progress. It then reverts to the famous “Suggestions in regard to Sanitary Works” of 1864, which Miss Nightingale had so large a hand in writing (above, p. 48). “I consider these Suggestions,” wrote the Secretary of State, “to be of very great practical value and to constitute a good foundation for sanitary inquiry and work in India.” The dispatch invites particular attention to some of the Suggestions seriatim, and calls for a report on any progress that has been made in carrying them out. It also includes Miss Nightingale's later suggestion (above, p. 152) that Engineer Officers should be sent to England to study sanitary questions. The whole dispatch, whilst leaving full executive authority to the Government of India, was directed to stimulating its zeal in the cause of Public Health.

The adoption by Sir Stafford Northcote of Miss Nightingale's “heads” for this dispatch secured the last of her Three Points. The reports for which the minister called were duly forwarded. They were printed in the Blue-book above mentioned, together with the other Papers, and with the dispatch itself. This Blue-book[95] was the first of an Annual Series of Indian Sanitary Reports. So, then, Miss Nightingale's intercourse with Sir Stafford Northcote had, with the limitations already explained, secured all her points.

“I hope, in this recourse to Sir Stafford Northcote,” she had written three months before,[96] “as a last hope. Hope was green, and the donkey ate it (that's me).” “I am inclined to think,” Mr. Jowett had written to her at the same time (July 18), “that you have really made a considerable step. I talked about Sir Stafford Northcote to some people who know him. They say, besides what I told you, that he works really hard at Indian affairs. Now, you must get hold of him and fuse him and Sir Bartle Frere and Sir[156] John Lawrence into one by some alchemy or wicked wit of woman, and then something will be accomplished.” And this was what had now been made possible; though perhaps the only secret on the woman's part was the combination of singleness of purpose, fulness of knowledge, clearness of insight, and a resolute will.


Sir Stafford Northcote's dispatch, and the accompanying memorandum, did not immediately have the effect which Miss Nightingale hoped so far as the Supreme Government was concerned. The Government of India somewhat resented the process of hustling by the India Office at home. Miss Nightingale had kept her faith in Sir John Lawrence, but it was put to some severe trials. For some time she had been more ready to praise and pray than he to do her bidding:—

(Sir John Lawrence to Miss Nightingale.) Calcutta, Feb. 7 [1867]. Many thanks for your very kind note of the 26th of December. I am quite sure that I in no wise deserve your blessings; nevertheless I am grateful to you for them, perhaps the more so when I bear in mind my own demerits. It is not a very pleasant duty talking to the “Kings of the East,” for though they receive all which one in my position may say with gravity and politeness, it makes but a wretched impression on them. You will be glad to hear that the death-rate among the English troops in India for 1866 was only 20.11, while it was 24.24 in 1865. This seems to me a very satisfactory result.… I have had an envoy down in Calcutta for some time, from the King of Bokhara, asking for aid against Russia. How strange it will be if Russia and England meet in Central Asia! I hope, if it is to be so, that it will be in amity. There is ample verge and room enough for both powers; and if both would only see this we might be a help instead of an injury to each other.

(Sir John Lawrence to Miss Nightingale.) Simleh, July 9 [1867].… [A passage dwelling on the many difficulties he had to encounter.] I do what I can to further the objects to which you have devoted your life—no doubt with slow and faltering steps, but still as fast as circumstances will permit.

Then on August 16 the Governor-General sent her a letter which must have very seriously shaken her faith.[157] He had asked her (p. 55) to formulate a scheme for female nursing. With her habitual good sense, she had contemplated an experiment in a single hospital and had drawn up a scheme on that basis. Instead of accepting her basis, the Governor-General referred the matter to his medical advisers, who elaborated a scheme for introducing female nursing into seven hospitals. The cost of this larger scheme was prohibitive; and the Government of India, instead of falling back upon Miss Nightingale's proposals, vetoed the whole thing. Sir John McNeill, who had assisted her with her proposals, was very angry, and sent her a hot indictment of the Indian officials. “You must wait for a new Governor-General. Sir John Lawrence has greatly disappointed me.” Then, afraid, I suppose, lest she might adopt some of his scathing phrases in replying to Sir John Lawrence, he wrote again, suggesting that dignified silence would be the better course. “It would be mere waste of time and hardly consistent with your name and position to argue with men who flounder about in such a hopeless slough of unreason. I would not even point out their inconsistencies. Both the Governor-General and you are high powers, and your correspondence ought, I think, to be conducted with the reserve that is proper to such persons when your opinions do not coincide. I would merely say, etc. etc.” What Sir John McNeill suggested she adopted with some slight modifications. In her reply to the Governor-General (Sept. 26, 1867) she thanked him for his letter and for the documents he enclosed; explained that she had submitted a scheme only because he had asked her to do so; remarked that the scheme which the Government of India had vetoed was not hers, nor anything like it; and added that if at any future time the question should be revived, she would again be willing, if desired, to give any advice or assistance in her power.


This incident did not interfere with the continuance of frequent and friendly correspondence between the two “high powers,” and Miss Nightingale's persistence may not have been without some effect. She frequently sent[158] sanitary papers and suggestions to the Governor-General, and these he always referred to some appropriate official for report, whose remarks (sometimes in manuscript, sometimes printed for official use) were in turn forwarded to her. There is one long printed paper of the kind, headed “Dr. Farquhar's Notes on Miss Nightingale's Questions relative to Sanitation in Algeria and India, April 20, 1867.”[97] Miss Nightingale forwarded the “Notes” to Sir Bartle Frere, who wrote a long memorandum in rejoinder. He agreed with Miss Nightingale that there was no reason why India should not be brought up to the Algerian standard. The “Notes” were a compendium, he thought, of the errors that impede sanitary reform in India. But though Sir John Lawrence's officials were critical, and her suggestions were not at the moment effectual, they may have had their influence in the end. Sir Bartle Frere was once asked by a member of Miss Nightingale's family to what her influence in India was due, and what had set the sanitary crusade in motion? Not the big Blue-book, he replied, which nobody reads, but “a certain little red book of hers on India which made some of us very savage at the time, but did us all immense good.”[98] Sir Bartle Frere had by no means lost faith in Sir John Lawrence, and urged Miss Nightingale to write to him, telling him in advance of the Memorandum which would shortly come to him from the India Office. “I have often known,” he said, “a scrap of paper on which you had written a few words—or even your words printed—work miraculously.” The scrap of paper was sent, urging Sir John Lawrence once more to appoint an Executive Sanitary Department in the Government of India, but it did not prevail:—

(Sir John Lawrence to Miss Nightingale.) October 25 [1868]. It may seem to you, with your great earnestness and singleness of mind, that we are doing very little, and yet in truth I already see great improvement, more particularly in our military cantonments, and doubtless we shall from year to year do better. But the extension of sanitation throughout the country and[159] among the people must be a matter of time, especially if we wish to carry them with us … (November 23). I think that we have done all we can do at present in furtherance of sanitary improvement, and that the best plan is to leave the Local Governments to themselves to work out their own arrangements. If we take this course we shall keep them in good humour. If we try more we shall have trouble. I don't think we require a commission. Mr. John Strachey, a member of Council, has special charge of the Home Department under the Government of India, and all sanitary matters have been transferred to that department, so that when I am gone there will still be a friend at court to whom you can refer.

Miss Nightingale found cold comfort in this promised friend at court, for Sir John Lawrence forwarded at the same time a letter to himself from Mr. Strachey, in which the latter expressed himself in indignant terms about the India Office's memorandum. It was full, he complained, of things which they were said to have left undone, and gave them no credit for what they had done; and it advocated a forward policy in sanitation which might be attended by grave dangers in forcing sanitary reform upon unwilling people. “Well,” said Miss Nightingale to Dr. Sutherland, “this is the nastiest pill we have had, but we have swallowed a good many and we're not poisoned yet.” They replied to Mr. Strachey's criticisms in a final letter to the Governor-General. An “admirable” letter, Sir Bartle Frere thought it; “my letter to Sir J. L.,” wrote Miss Nightingale in her diary, “to bless and to curse” (Dec. 4, 1868). I hope, and I expect, that the blessing was the larger half. For, in truth, she had obtained during Sir John Lawrence's term of office at least as much for her cause as could reasonably be expected.

When Sir John Lawrence returned to London, one of the first things he did was to call at South Street, and leave, with a little note, “a small shawl of the fine hair of the Thibet goat.” He did not presume, he said, to ask to see her without an appointment, but would call another day if she cared to give him one. Three days later (April 3, 1869), he came, and all Miss Nightingale's admiration returned on the instant. She made a long note of his conversation, which ranged over the whole field of Indian government.[160] On the subject of Public Health she recorded with pleasure his saying to her: “You initiated the reform which initiated Public Opinion which made things possible, and now there is not a station in India where there is not something doing.” But “in the first place,” she wrote, “when I see him again, I see that there is nobody like him. He is Rameses II. of Egypt. All the Ministers are rats and weasels by his side.” And to a friend she afterwards said:[99] “Peace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew. He has left his mark on India. Wherever superstition or ignorance or starvation or dirt or fever or famine, or the wild bold lawlessness of brave races, or the cringing slavishness of clever feeble races was to be found, there he has left his mark. He has set India on a new track which—may his successors follow!—

Knight of a better era
Without reproach or fear,
Said I not well that Bayards
And Sidneys still are here!”




There is a vast work going on in India, and the fruits will be reaped in time. Not all at once. We must go on working in faith and in hope.—Dr. John Sutherland (Letter to Miss Nightingale, August 16, 1871).

“By dint of remaining here for 13 months to dog the Minister I have got a little (not tart, but) Department all to myself, called ‘Of Public Health, Civil and Military, for India,’ with Sir B. Frere at the head of it. And I had the immense satisfaction 3 or 4 months ago of seeing ‘Printed Despatch No. 1’ of said Department. (I never, in all my life before, saw any Despatch, Paper or Minute under at least No. 77,981). Still you know this is not the meat, but only the smell of the meat. What we want is an Executive out there to do it, and a Department here to see that it is being done. The latter we now have; the former must still rest with the Viceroy and Council out there.” Thus did Miss Nightingale, in a letter to M. Mohl (Feb. 16, 1868), sum up the results of the campaign described in the last chapter. Her life, for some years to come, was now largely occupied with the affairs of the “little Department all to herself.” The Department may have been little, but she interpreted her duties, as we shall see, in a large sense. Her work in connection with the War Office, though it did not entirely cease, was no longer absorbing. She had ceased to have direct communications with the Secretaries for War. In 1868 there was one of the periodical reorganizations of the War Office, followed in the succeeding year by the[162] retirement of Captain Galton.[100] She had thus no longer a confidential intimate in the Department. She could have made one, perhaps, if she had so desired; for her Scutari friend, Sir Henry Storks, had now been appointed to the newly organized post of Controller-in-Chief, and presently became Surveyor-General of Ordnance. But her Indian preoccupations, coupled with the never-ceasing strain of work as Adviser-in-General on Hospitals and Nursing, used all her strength. In the present chapter we shall follow the course of her life during the years 1868–72, with special reference to Indian work; in the next, we shall follow the development of her work in connection with hospitals and nursing.

The long strain, mentioned in the letter to M. Mohl, had told severely upon Miss Nightingale's strength, and at the end of December 1867 she went, leaving no address behind (except with Dr. Sutherland), for a month's rest-cure under Dr. Walter Johnson at Malvern. Upon her return to London she was busily engaged in the preparation of the Indian “Memorandum” described in the last chapter. The death of Miss Agnes Jones and the anxieties which it entailed (chap. i.) told greatly upon her health and spirits. Mr. Jowett, after seeing her early in July, was seriously alarmed at her state of physical weakness and mental despondency. She had half promised him that she would go for rest and change to Lea Hurst; but only if the rest were accompanied by a duty of affection. If her mother were at Lea Hurst, she would go; if not, she would not. So Mr. Jowett wrote privately to Mrs. Nightingale, who arranged her plans accordingly, and begged her daughter to come and be with her. They were together at the old home for three months (July 7–Oct. 3), and for a week of the time Mr. Jowett was with them. The mother and the daughter had seldom been on such affectionate and understanding terms as now. “Mama,” wrote Miss Nightingale to Madame Mohl (July 20), “is more cheerful, more gentle[163] than I ever remember her.” The daughter's note of conversations shows that they talked of misunderstandings in the past, and that the mother was ready to blame herself: “You would have done nothing in life, if you had not resisted me.” For many years to come, Miss Nightingale repeated such visits to the country homes of her parents. They were now old; her father was 74 in 1868, her mother 80. The daughter desired to be with them so far as her work allowed. Perhaps something was due also to the persistent counsels of Mr. Jowett. Continuous drudgery in London was not good, he pleaded, either for her body or for her soul. They were supposed to have entered into a compact not to overwork. He avowed that he was faithfully keeping his side of the bargain, and put her upon her honour to do her part in return. It was an unhealthy life, he pleaded, to be shut up all the year in a London room. There was still much for her to do, and she would do it all the better for some relaxation of daily effort. Perhaps he persuaded her. At any rate, from 1868 for some years onwards there was more of the country in Miss Nightingale's life—less of incessant drudgery, more leisure for reading, more marge for meditation. In 1869 she was at Embley for three months in the summer; in 1870, at Embley for one month, and at Lea Hurst for three; in 1871, there was a similar division of time; in 1872 she was at Embley for eight months.


Mr. Jowett was often a visitor on these occasions for a few days at a time. He continued in frequent letters to urge her to attempt some sustained writing. She had a talent for it, he insisted, and she was possessed of great influence. He suggested as a subject suitable to her a Treatise on the Reform of the Poor Law, and he sent her a memorandum of his own ideas on the subject. There are one or two of Mr. Jowett's ideas, and occasionally a phrase of his, in what she ultimately wrote. She endeavoured to take his advice, and a resolve is recorded in her diary for 1868 to devote an hour a day to writing. The projected[164] work went to no further length than that of a magazine article entitled “A Note on Pauperism.” Nothing that she ever wrote—with one exception[101]—cost her so much worry and trouble. She did what is always trying to an author's equanimity and often prejudicial to the effect of his work: she admitted collaboration. Dr. Sutherland had a hand in it—that goes without saying, and his assistance was always useful: he knew exactly within what limits he could really help his friend. But her brother-in-law was an authority on the subject and Lady Verney claimed (and not without justice) to be an authority on the style appropriate to magazine articles. She took much well-meant trouble, and transcribed her sister's first draft in her own hand, with corrections of her own also. The authoress was in despair, and sent again for Dr. Sutherland: “I have adopted all your corrections, and all Parthe's, and all Sir Harry's; and they have taken out all my bons mots and left unfinished sentences on every page; and this kind of work really takes a year's strength out of me; and now you must help me.” So, Dr. Sutherland patched up the broken sentences and harmonized the corrections, and the article was ready. Miss Nightingale was as timid and perplexed as any literary beginner about placing her paper. After much consultation she decided to submit it to Mr. Froude, with whom as yet she had no acquaintance. She was as pleased as any literary beginner when the editor replied immediately that he would be delighted to print the paper in his next number. In Fraser for March 1869 it appeared accordingly—the first of several contributions which she made to that magazine. The “Note” is somewhat disconnected in style and slight in treatment, but is full of far-reaching suggestions. She begins by insisting on a reform of which we have heard much in a previous chapter: the separation of the sick and incapable from the workhouse. Then she goes on to argue that the thing to do is “not to punish the hungry for being hungry, but to teach the hungry to feed themselves.” She attacks the laisser faire school of economists, “which being interpreted means Let bad alone.” Political economy speaks of labour as mobile, and she quotes[165] a leading article in the Times which had talked about “the convenience in the possession of a vast industrial army, ready for any work, and chargeable on the public when its work is no longer wanted.” She stigmatizes such talk as false, in the first case, and wicked, in the second. The State should endeavour to facilitate the organization of labour. “Where work is in one place, and labour in another, it should bring them together.” Education should be more manual, and less literary. Pauper children should be boarded out and sent to industrial schools. The condition of the dwellings of the poor is at the root of much pauperism, and the State should remedy it. There should be State-aided colonization, so as to bring the landless man to the manless lands. Some of all this was not so familiar in 1869 as it is to-day, and Miss Nightingale's “Note” attracted much attention. Among those who read it with hearty approval was Carlyle. “Last night,” wrote Mr. Rawlinson (March 11), “I spent several hours with Mr. Carlyle, and amongst talk about Lancashire Public Works, modern modes of government, modern Political Economy and Social Morality, he brought to my notice your ‘Note on Pauperism’ as in his opinion the best, because the most practical, paper he had read of late on the question. I wish you could have been present to have listened to the great man alternately pouring forth a living stream of information, and then bursting into a rhapsody of passionate denunciation of some thick-headed blundering statesmanship or indignant tirade against commercial rascality.” Dr. Sutherland called to express his pleasure that the article had gone off so well. “Well!” she said; “it's not well at all. The whole of London is calling here to tell me they have got a depauperizing experiment, including that horrid woman.” A large bundle of correspondence testifies to the interest which her paper aroused. Some of it was not disinterested. All the emigration societies read the paper with the gratitude which looks to subscriptions. The article was very expensive to her; for she gave away the editor's fee many times over in such contributions. For some years following, she took great interest in schemes for emigration, and nothing angered her more in the politics of the day than the absence[166] of any Colonial Policy in the schemes and speeches of Liberal Ministers.

Miss Nightingale had sent some of her correspondence on colonization to an old friend at the Colonial Office—Sir Frederick Rogers (Lord Blachford). “See what a thing,” he replied (July 26, 1869), “is a bad conscience! You, conscious of a life spent in bullying harmless Government offices, think that I must read your (beautiful) handwriting with horror. Whereas I, conscious of rectitude, have sincere pleasure in receiving your assaults.” This was a preface to an essay in which the Under-Secretary demonstrated, in the manner habitual to the Colonial Office in those days, the utter undesirability, impropriety, and impossibility of doing anything at all. Lord Houghton raised a conversation on the subject in the House of Lords, but confessed to Miss Nightingale that he was half-hearted, and nothing came of it. She formed a large heap of newspaper cuttings, collected facts from foreign countries, made many notes, and intended to follow up the suggestions, thrown out in her paper, into greater detail, and then perhaps to publish a book. She gave much time during 1869 to the subject, and in December Mr. Goschen, the President of the Poor Law Board, came to see her. They had a long discussion, and her note of it begins with an aperçu of the Minister—a little severe, perhaps, but not undiscriminating. “He is a man of considerable mind, great power of getting up statistical information and political economy, but with no practical insight or strength of character. It is an awkward mind—like a pudding in lumps. He is like a man who has been senior wrangler and never anything afterwards.” He seemed to Miss Nightingale to see so many objections to any course as to make him likely to do nothing; and his economic doctrines paid too little regard, she thought, to the actual facts. “You must sometimes trample on the toes of Political Economists,” she said,[102] “just to make them feel whether they are standing on firm ground.” That she was deeply interested in the whole subject is shown by a testamentary document, dated September 19, 1869, in which she earnestly begged Dr. Sutherland to edit and publish her further “Notes[167] on Pauperism.”[103] She lived in full possession of her faculties for at least a quarter of a century after this date, but she never put the Notes into printable shape. As I have said before, she lacked inclination to sustained literary composition. Besides, her hands were full of other things.


Miss Nightingale's main work during these years may be described as that of a Health Missionary for India. She carried on her mission in three ways. She endeavoured by personal interviews and correspondence to incense with a desire for sanitary improvement all Indian officials, from Governors-General to local officers of health, whom she could contrive to influence. She made acquaintance with natives of India and strove to spread her gospel among them in their own country. And through her “own little Department” in co-operation with Sir Bartle Frere she did a large amount of official work in the same direction.

On her return to London at the beginning of October 1868, she found work awaiting her under the first of the foregoing heads. Sir John Lawrence's term of office of Governor-General was coming to an end, and Disraeli had appointed Lord Mayo to succeed him. On October 22 he wrote asking to be allowed to see Miss Nightingale before he sailed for India:—

(Sir Bartle Frere to Miss Nightingale.) India Office, Oct. 23 [1868]. I think you will hear from Lord Mayo, who I know is anxious to see you, if you can grant him an interview next week. Could you in the meantime note down for him, as you did (when describing what the folk in India should now do) in a note to me a few weeks ago, the points to which he should give attention? I think you will like him very much. In appearance he is a refined likeness of what I remember of O'Connell when I went as a boy (with a proper horror of his principles) to hear him before he got into Parliament. Lord Mayo is very pleasing in manner, with no assumption of “knowing all about[168] it,” and evidently better informed on many subjects connected with sanitary reform than many men of greater pretension. He has a great sense of humour, too, which is a great help. I wish, when you see him, you would ask to see Lady Mayo.

The interview with Lord Mayo was on the 28th, and a few days later Miss Nightingale saw Lady Mayo also. On the morning of the 28th Dr. Sutherland was summoned to South Street. He was in a hurry and hoped there was “nothing much on to-day.” “There is a ‘something,’” ran the message sent down to him, “which most people would think a very big thing indeed. And that is seeing the Viceroy or Sacred Animal of India. I made him go to Shoeburyness yesterday and come to me this afternoon, because I could not see him unless you give me some kind of general idea what to state.” Dr. Sutherland, thus prettily flattered, stayed, and they discussed what should be said to the Sacred Animal. Next day she reported the conversation to Dr. Sutherland:—

What he said was not unsensible but essentially Irish. He said that he should see Sir J. Lawrence for two days before he (Sir J. L.) left. And he said he should ask Sir J. L. to call upon me the moment he returned, and to ask me to write out to him (Lord Mayo) anything that Sir J. L. thought “a new broom” could do. That was clever of him. But he asked me (over and over again) that I should now at once before he goes write down for him something (he said) “that would guide me upon the sanitary administration as soon as I arrive.” And “especially (he said) about that Executive.” He asked most sagacious questions about all the men.

Miss Nightingale took counsel with Sir Bartle Frere and Dr. Sutherland and then wrote a Memorandum for the new Viceroy. She covered the whole ground of sanitary improvement, dwelling much on questions of irrigation and agricultural development as aids thereto. “A noble and a most complete Paper,” said Sir Bartle Frere (Nov. 1), “and it will be invaluable to India.” Perhaps it impressed the new Viceroy also. At any rate Lord Mayo's administration was marked by some improvement in sanitary conditions, and by extension of irrigation works.[104] He also initiated[169] two of the indispensable preliminaries to sanitary progress: the Census, and a statistical survey of the country. In an autobiographical note detailing her relations with successive Viceroys, Miss Nightingale says that Lord Mayo's policy in sanitary and agricultural matters was in accord with lines which Sir Bartle Frere and she desired. “I say nothing,” she adds, “of his splendid services in foreign policy, in his Feudatory States and Native Chiefs policy, in which doubtless Sir B. Frere helped him. I saw him more than once before he started, and he corresponded with me all the time of his too brief Viceroyalty. I think he was the most open man, except Sidney Herbert, I ever knew. I think it was Lord Stanley who said of him, ‘He did things not from calculation, but from the nature of his mind.’ Lord Mayo said himself that his Irish experience with ‘a subject race’ was so useful to him in India. He said that he was certainly the only Viceroy who had sold his own cattle in the market.” “Florence the First, Empress of Scavengers, Queen of Nurses, Reverend Mother Superior of the British Army, Governess of the Governor of India” was Mr. Jowett's address when he heard of the interviews with Lord Mayo. “Empress of Scavengers” was M. Mohl's title for her at this time. “Rather,” she said, “Maid of all (dirty) work; or, The Nuisances Removal Act: that's me.”

Miss Nightingale's greatest ally in India at this time was, however, Lord Napier, Governor of Madras. “I remember Scutari,” he wrote (June 24, 1868), “and I am one of the few original faithful left, and I think I am attached to you irrespective of sanitation.” He was firm in her cause even where Sir John Lawrence had seemed unfaithful. The Governor-General had abandoned a scheme for female nursing (p. 157); Lord Napier carried one through in Madras, and corresponded at some length with Miss Nightingale on the subject. Sir John Lawrence had refused her advice to send some Engineer Officers home to study sanitary works; he had “none to spare.” Lord Napier adopted the advice, and sent Captain H. Tulloch, whose visit to England and association with Mr. Rawlinson resulted in reports on urban drainage and the utilization of sewage. Lady Napier gave letters of introduction to Miss Nightingale[170] to other officials from Madras, and Lord Napier reported progress to her constantly:—

(Lord Napier to Miss Nightingale.) Kodaikanal, Sept. 22 [1867]. I write to you from one of the Arsenals of Health in Southern India, from the Palni Hills, the most romantic and least visited of these salubrious and beautiful places.… I have deferred writing to you till I could announce that some sanitary good had really been secured worthy of your attention. I cannot say that such is yet the case, but something has been proposed and designed. We are building central jails to empty the district jails, and we are remodelling the district jails and rebuilding two or three. We are aerating and enlarging the lock-ups. I have stirred up the doctors in the general hospital at Madras. I have proposed to take the soldiers out of it and build them a new separate military Hospital (not yet sanctioned). I have endeavoured to raise the little native dispensaries and hospitals out of their sordid baseness and poverty. I am trying to get a new female hospital sanctioned for women, both European and native, with respectable diseases, and the others taken out and settled apart. I don't think my action has gone beyond a kind of impulse and movement. But we may effect something more important in the coming year. My wife has taken an active interest in the Magdalen Hospital, the Lying-in Hospital, and the orphanages of various kinds. We want money, zeal, belief; and knowledge in many quarters.

(Lord Napier to Miss Nightingale.) Madras, Sept. 3 [1868]. I am truly happy to find that I can do something to please you and that you will count me as a humble but devoted member of the Sanitary band, of your band I might more properly say! Do you know that I was sent by Lord Stratford to salute and welcome you on your first arrival at Scutari and that I found you stretched on the sofa where I believe you never lay down again? I thought then that it would be a great happiness to serve you, and if the Elchi would have given me to you I would have done so with all my heart and learned many things that would have been useful to me now. But the Elchi would never employ any one on serious work who was at all near himself, so I spent the best years of my life at a momentous crisis doing nothing when there was enough for all! But if I can do something now it will be a late compensation … [report on various sanitary measures then in hand]. I have read the beautiful account of “Una” last evening driving along the melancholy shore. I send it to Lady Napier, who is in the Hills. I will write again soon, as you permit and even desire it, and I am ever your faithful, grateful and devoted Servant, Napier.

(Lord Napier to Miss Nightingale.) Madras, June 3 [1869].[171] … Now I have a good piece of news for you. We are framing a Bill for a general scheme of local taxation in this Presidency, both in municipalities and in villages, and the open country, to provide for three purposes—local roads, primary education, and Sanitation—such as improvement of wells, regulation of pilgrimages and fairs, drainage, &c. It will be very unpopular I fear in the first instance, for the people wish neither to be taught nor cured, but I think it is better on the whole to force their hands. We are driven to it, for I see clearly that we must wait a long time for help from the Supreme Government.… I was pleased and flattered to be mentioned by you in the same sentence with Lord Herbert. Indeed I am not worthy to tie the latchet of his shoe, but there are weaknesses and illusions which endure to the last, and I suppose I never shall be indifferent to see myself praised by a woman and placed in connection, however remote, with a person of so much virtue and distinction. You shall have the little labour that is left in me.[105]

A subject on which Miss Nightingale wrote both to Lord Napier and to Lord Mayo was the inquiry into cholera in India ordered by the Secretary of State in April 1869. She had made the proposition many months before. Indian medical officers were absorbed in propounding theories; Miss Nightingale wanted first an exhaustive inquiry into the facts. Even if such an inquiry did not establish any of the rival theories, it must lead, she thought, to much sanitary improvement. Sir Bartle Frere strongly supported the idea, and it was arranged that the War Office Sanitary Committee should make the suggestion and elaborate the scheme of procedure to be followed in India. The Committee meant for such a purpose Dr. Sutherland, and Dr. Sutherland meant in part Miss Nightingale. Sir Bartle Frere constantly wrote to her to know when the India Office might expect the Instructions, and Miss Nightingale as constantly applied the spur to Dr. Sutherland. On April 3 she delivered an ultimatum: “Unless the Cholera Instructions are sent to[172] me to-day, I renounce work and go away.” At last they arrived, and her friend received a withering note: “April 13, 1869. I beg leave to remark that I found a letter of yours this morning dated early in Dec., which I mean to show you, in which, with the strongest objurgations of me, you told me that you could not come because you intended to get the Cholera Instructions through by December 12, 1868. My dear soul, really Sir B. Frere could not have known the exhausting labour he has put you all to; to produce that in four months must prove fatal to all your constitutions! He is an ogre.” Dr. Sutherland's Instructions are admirably exhaustive, and may well have taken some time to prepare. The remaining stages of the affair were quick, and the Secretary of State's dispatch went out to the Government of India on April 23, followed by private letters from Miss Nightingale. The Sanitary Blue-books of successive years contain copious reports and discussions upon this “Special Cholera Inquiry.” It furnished much material for scientific discussion, by which Miss Nightingale sometimes feared that what she regarded as the essence of the matter was in danger of being overlaid. She and the Army Sanitary Committee took occasion more than once to point out that “whatever may be the origin of cholera, or whatever may ultimately be found to be its laws of movement, there is nothing in any of the papers except what strengthens the evidence for the intimate relation which all previous experience has shown to exist between the intensity and fatality of cholera in any locality and the sanitary condition of the population inhabiting it.”[106] The origin of cholera is now said to be a micro-organism identified by Koch, but the laws of its movement and activity remain inscrutable. Meanwhile, all subsequent experience has confirmed the doctrine which Miss Nightingale continually preached, that the one protection against cholera consists in a standing condition of good sanitation.



At the very time when Dr. Sutherland was hard at work upon the Cholera Instructions, Miss Nightingale heard a report (on good authority) which filled her with anger and consternation. Mr. Gladstone was engaged in cutting down the Army Estimates; the Army Medical Service was believed to be marked for retrenchment, and the War Office Sanitary Commission for destruction. When she told this to Dr. Sutherland, he took the matter with nonchalance and said (as men are sometimes apt to say in such cases, especially if there is a woman to rely upon) that he did not see that anything could be done. Very different was the view taken by Miss Nightingale, when she contemplated, not merely the interruption of Dr. Sutherland's useful work,[107] but the possibility of all Sidney Herbert's work being undermined. Nothing to be done indeed! There was everything to be done! She could write to the Prime Minister himself. She could write to Lord de Grey (Lord President). She could get this friend to approach one Minister, and that friend to approach another. She could even claim a slight acquaintance, and write to Mr. Cardwell (Secretary for War). She could write to all her friends among the Opposition and give them timely notice of the wicked things intended by their adversaries. She ultimately wrote to Lord de Grey, enclosing a letter which he was to hand or not, at his discretion, to Mr. Cardwell. The intervention was successful, and Lord de Grey asked her for Memoranda to “post him up” in the work of the Army Sanitary Commission and in the Sanitary Progress in India. Lord de Grey interceded with Mr. Cardwell also on behalf of the Army Medical School and it was spared. The Army Sanitary Committee was not touched, and for nearly twenty years more (till 1888) Dr. Sutherland continued his work upon it. Miss Nightingale's reports submitted to Lord de Grey are summarized in a[174] letter to M. Mohl (Nov. 21, 1869):—“I am all in the arithmetical line now. Lately I have been making up our Returns in a popular form for one of the Cabinet Ministers (we are obliged to be very ‘popular’ for them—but hush! my abject respect for Cabinet Ministers prevails). I find that every year, taken upon the last four years for which we have returns (1864–7), there are, in the Home Army, 729 men alive every year who would have been dead but for Sidney Herbert's measures, and 5184 men always on active duty who would have been ‘constantly sick’ in bed. In India the difference is still more striking. Taken on the last two years, the death-rate of Bombay (civil, military and native) is lower than that of London, the healthiest city of Europe. And the death-rate of Calcutta is lower than that of Liverpool or Manchester![108] But this is not the greatest victory. The Municipal Commissioner of Bombay writes[109] that the ‘huddled native masses clamorously invoke the aid of the Health Department’ if but one death from cholera or small-pox occurs; whereas formerly half of them might be swept away and the other half think it all right. Now they attribute these deaths to dirty foul water and the like, and openly declare them preventable. No hope for future civilization among the ‘masses’ like this!”


In December 1869 Miss Nightingale made a new friend. Lord Napier of Magdala[110] was passing through London, and[175] wrote to Sir Bartle Frere saying that it “would make him very happy if he could have the privilege of paying his respects to Miss Nightingale before he left.” Sir Bartle begged Miss Nightingale to grant the favour, as Lord Napier was devoted to their cause and was likely to be employed in India again—as quickly came to pass, for in the following month he was appointed Commander-in-Chief.[111] Lord Napier called on December 14, in order (as he wrote to her in making the appointment) “to have an opportunity of saying how much I have felt indebted to you for the assistance that your precepts and example gave to all who have been concerned with the care of soldiers and their families.” He spent some hours with her, and she was charmed with him. “I felt sure,” wrote Sir Bartle Frere (Dec. 23), “that you would like Lord Napier of Magdala. He always seemed to me one of the few men fit for the Round Table.” A long note which she recorded of the conversation shows how congenial it must have been to her, for Lord Napier talked with strong feeling of the importance and the practicability of improving the moral health of the British soldier. The administrators and the men of action always appealed to her more than the politicians, and Lord Napier of Magdala was now added to her list of heroes. “When I look at these three men (tho' strangely different[112])—Lord Lawrence, Lord Napier of Magdala and Sir Bartle Frere—for practical ability, for statesmanlike perception of where the truth lies and what is to be done and who is to do it, for high aim, for noble disinterestedness, I feel that there is not a Minister we have in England fit to tie their shoes—since Sidney Herbert. There is a simplicity, a largeness of view and character about these three men, as about Sidney Herbert, that does not exist in the present Ministers. They are party[176] men; these three are statesmen. S. Herbert made enemies by not being a party man; it gave him such an advantage over them.” Lord Napier of Magdala came to see Miss Nightingale again in the following year (March 18, 1870), spending in conversation with her his last hours before leaving London to take up his appointment in India. She and Sir Bartle Frere attached high importance to this interview. Lord Napier was a convinced sanitarian. He was bent upon introducing many reforms in the treatment of the soldiers. He believed in the possibility of improving both their moral and physical condition, by means of rational recreation and suitable employment. Sir Bartle Frere suggested to Miss Nightingale that after seeing the Commander-in-Chief she should write to the Viceroy so as to prepare his mind for what Lord Napier would propose. Lord Napier himself begged her to do so. “Everything in India,” he said to her, “depends on what is thought in England, and it was you who raised public opinion in England on these subjects.” Preparation of the Viceroy's mind was held to be the more necessary because a letter, lately received by Miss Nightingale from him, seemed to show that his sanitary education was by no means complete. So Mr. Jowett's “Governess of the Governors of India” took her pupil again by the hand, and, with Dr. Sutherland's assistance, drew up a further Memorandum on the Indian sanitary question at large. Referring him to the Royal Commission's Report, she pointed out that the causes of ill-health among the troops were many, and that there was no single panacea; that if other causes were not concurrently removed, the erection of new barracks could not suffice; that fever may lurk beneath and around “costly palaces” (for so Lord Mayo had called some of the new barracks) even as around hovels; that expense incurred in all-round sanitary improvement can never be costly in the sense of extravagant, because it is essentially saving and reproductive expenditure; and so forth, and so forth.[113] Miss Nightingale, before sending her letter, submitted it to Sir Bartle Frere (March 25). “I[177] have nothing to suggest,” he said, “in the way of alteration, and only wish that its words of wisdom were in print, and that thousands besides Lord Mayo could profit by them. They are in fact exactly what we want to have said to every one connected with the question from the Viceroy down to the Village Elder.” Sir Bartle begged her to consider whether she could not write something to the same effect which would reach the latter class. Mr. Jowett had suggested something of the sort a few years before. “Did it ever occur to you,” he had written (March 1867), “that you might write a short pamphlet or tract for the natives in India and get it translated? That would be a curious and interesting thing to do. When I saw the other day the account of Miss Carpenter in India, I felt half sorry that it was not you. They would have worshipped you like a divinity. A pretty reason! you will say. But then you might have gently rebuked the adoring natives as St. Paul did on a similar occasion, and assured them that you were only a Washerwoman and not a Divine at all; that would have had an excellent effect.” Presently she found an opportunity of doing something in the kind that Mr. Jowett and Sir Bartle Frere had suggested.

Meanwhile, Lord Mayo had introduced Dr. J. W. Cunningham to Miss Nightingale, and they became great allies. When he returned to resume his duties as “Sanitary Commissioner with the Government of India,” he corresponded with Miss Nightingale regularly, telling her where things were backward and where a word in season from her would be helpful. In every question she took the keenest interest, sparing no pains to forward, so far as she could, every good scheme that was laid before her. In 1872 Mr. W. Clark, engineer to the municipality of Calcutta, came to see her about great schemes of water-supply and drainage. She obtained an introduction to Sir George Campbell, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, in order to commend to his notice Mr. Clark's plans. For many years she was thus engaged in correspondence with sanitary reformers and officials in various parts of India, sending them words of encouragement when they seemed to desire and deserve it, words of advice when, as was frequently the[178] case, they invited it. When such officials came home on furlough, most of them came also to Miss Nightingale. Dr. Sutherland, in his official capacity on the War Office Sanitary Committee, would often see them first; he would then pass them on to her, dividing them into two classes: those “whom you must simply lecture” and those “whose education you had better conduct by innocently putting searching questions to them.” Miss Nightingale was never backward in filling the part of governess to those who in sanitary matters governed India.


Sanitary improvement depended, however, on the governed as well as on the governors; and Miss Nightingale had for some time been extending her influence in India by making the personal acquaintance of Indian gentlemen. “I have been quite beset by Parsees,” she wrote to M. Mohl (Feb. 16, 1868); “and after all I saw your Manochjee Cursetjee, that is, the ‘Byron of the East.’ Sir B. Frere says that few men have done so much for the education of their own race. He talked a good deal of Philosophy to me, while my head was entirely in Midwifery! He is (by his own proposal), if I can send out the Midwives, to take them in at the house of his daughters, of whom one married a Cama, and the other is the first Parsee lady who ever lived as an English single lady might do.” Many other Indian ladies and gentlemen were introduced to Miss Nightingale personally or in correspondence by Miss Carpenter. In 1870 Miss Nightingale was elected an Honorary Member of the Bengal Social Science Association, the Council of which body was mainly composed of Indian gentlemen. She wrote a cordial letter of thanks (May 25). “For eleven years,” she said, “what little I could do for India, for the conditions on which the Eternal has made to depend the lives and healths and social happiness of men, as well Native as European, has been the constant object of my thoughts by day and my thoughts by night.” She eulogized the work that had been done by many private gentlemen of India; she put before them a vision of vast schemes of[179] drainage and irrigation; she sent a subscription to the funds of the Association, and promised a contribution to its Proceedings. In this contribution,[114] sent in June 1870, Miss Nightingale did what Sir Bartle Frere desired: she addressed the Village Elder. “I think,” said Dr. Sutherland, who had submitted a draft for Miss Nightingale to rewrite in her own language, “that this is the most important contribution you have made to the question.” In simple and terse language, she described the sanitary reforms which might be carried out by the people themselves—pointing out in detail the nature of the evils, and the appropriate remedies for them, and then appealing to simple motives for sanitary improvement. “As we find in all history and true fable that the meanest causes universally multiplied produce the greatest effects, let us not think it other than a fitting sacrifice to the Eternal and Perfect One to look into the lowest habits of great peoples, in order, if we may, to awaken them to a sense of the injury they are doing themselves and the good they might do themselves. Much of the willingness for education is due to the fact, appreciated by them, that education makes money. But would not the same appreciation, if enlightened, show them that loss of health, loss of strength, loss of life, is loss of money, the greatest loss of money we know? And we may truly say that every sanitary improvement which saves health and life is worth its weight in gold.” This address to the Peoples of India was the most widely distributed of all Miss Nightingale's missionary efforts. The Association translated it into Bengali. Sir Bartle Frere had it translated into other Indian languages.


Miss Nightingale's third sphere of missionary work was in the Sanitary Department at the India Office, to which, through her alliance with Sir Bartle Frere, she was a confidential adviser. Her action, in making suggestions and in seeking to influence officials in India, has been illustrated already. Her constant work was in helping to edit and in contributing to the Annual Blue-book containing reports of[180] “measures adopted for sanitary improvements in India.” The importance which Miss Nightingale attached to the publication of such an annual has been explained in general terms already (p. 145). She saw in it two useful purposes. First, the fact that reports from India were required and published each year acted as a spur to the authorities in that country; and, secondly, the introductory memorandum, and the inclusion of reports on Indian matters by the War Office Sanitary Committee, gave opportunity, year by year, for making suggestions and criticisms. The Annual was issued by the Sanitary Department at the India Office and edited by Mr. C. C. Plowden, a zealous clerk in that office with whom Miss Nightingale made friends; Sir Bartle Frere, as head of the Department, instructed him to submit all the reports to Miss Nightingale who in fact was assistant-editor, or perhaps rather (for her will seems to have been law) editor-in-chief. It was she who had prepared for the Royal Commission the analysis of sanitary defects in the several Indian Stations; who had written the “Observations” on them; who had taken a principal part in drafting the “Suggestions” for their reform. It was natural that she should be asked to report on the measures actually taken to that end. She was a very critical reporter. “Sir Bartle Frere hesitates a little,” she was told on one occasion (1869), “as to the omission of all terms of praise, and says that the Indian Jupiter is a god of sunshine as well as thunder and should dispense both; he, however, sanctions the omission in the present case.” Miss Nightingale's papers show that during the years 1869–74 she devoted great labour to the Annual. She read and criticised the abstracts of the local reports prepared by Mr. Plowden; she discussed all the points that they suggested with Dr. Sutherland; she wrote, or suggested, the introductory memorandum. She did this work with the greater zeal because it kept her informed of every detail; and the knowledge thus acquired gave the greater force to her private correspondence with Viceroys, Governors, Commanders-in-Chief, and Sanitary Commissioners. Her share in the first number of the Annual has been already described (p. 155). In the following year[181] Mr. Plowden wrote (May 22, 1869): “I forward a sketch of the Introductory Memorandum to the Sanitary volume. You will see that the greater part of it is copied verbatim from a memorandum of your own that Sir Bartle Frere handed over to me for this purpose.” “I can never thank you sufficiently,” wrote Sir Bartle himself (July 5), “for all the kind help you have given to Mr. Plowden's Annual, at the cost of an amount of trouble to yourself which I hardly like to think of. But I feel sure it will leave its mark on India.” She took good care that it should at any rate have a chance of doing so. She had discovered that the 1868 Report, though sent to India in October of that year, had not been distributed in the several Presidencies till June 1869. She now saw to it that copies of the 1869 Report were sent separately to the various stations by book-post. She continued to contribute in one way or another to successive volumes[115]; and that for 1874 included a long and important paper by her.


Ten years before Miss Nightingale had popularized the Report of her Royal Commission in a paper entitled “How People may Live and Not Die in India.” The Paper was read to the Social Science Congress in 1863. In 1873 she was again requested to contribute a Paper to the Congress. She chose for her title “How some People have Lived, and Not Died in India.” It was a summary in popular form of ten years' progress, and this was the Paper which the India Office reprinted in its Blue-book of 1874. Miss Nightingale glanced in rapid detail at the improvements in various parts of India; took occasion to give credit to particularly zealous officials; and noticed incidentally some of the common objections. One objection was that caste prejudice must ever be an insuperable obstacle to sanitary improvement. She gave “a curious and cheerful” instance to the contrary. Calcutta had “found the fabled virtues of the Ganges in the pure water-tap.” When the water-supply[182] was first introduced, the high-caste Hindoos still desired their water-carriers to bring them the sacred water from the river; but these functionaries, finding it much easier to take the water from the new taps, just rubbed in a little (vulgar, not sacred) mud and presented it as Ganges water. When at last the healthy fraud was discovered, public opinion, founded on experience, had already gone too far to return to dirty water. And the new water-supply was, at public meetings, adjudged to be “theologically as well as physically safe.” Then there was the objection of expense, but she analysed the result of sanitary improvements in statistics of the army. The death-rate had been brought down from 69 per 1000 to 18. Only 18 men died where 69 died before. A sum of £285,000 was the money saving on recruits in a single year.

The course of sanitary improvement, and the results of it, among the civil population cannot be brought to any such definite test; no Indian census was taken till 1872, registration of births and deaths was only beginning and was very imperfect; and India is a country as large as the whole of Europe (without Russia). It was the opinion of a competent authority that the sanitary progress which had been made in India during the years covered by Miss Nightingale's review “had no parallel in the history of the world”;[116] but the progress was relative of course to the almost incredibly insanitary condition of the country when she began her crusade. The progress had been made along many different lines. First, in connection with the health of military stations, the Government of India established committees of military, civil, medical and engineering officers, of local magistrates and village authorities to regulate the sanitary arrangements of the neighbourhood. Sanitary oases for British troops were thus established in the midst of insanitary deserts. Then, sanitary regulations were issued for fairs and pilgrimages—each of these a focus of Indian disease. Institutions in India—hospitals, jails,[183] asylums—had been greatly improved; and the municipalities of the great cities had made some sanitary progress. Ten years before, Miss Nightingale had reported to the Royal Commission that no one of the seats of Presidencies in India had as yet arrived at the degree of sanitary civilization shown in the worst parts of the worst English towns. Now, Calcutta had a pure-water supply and the main drainage of most of the town was complete. Bombay had done less by municipal action, but thanks to a specially vigorous Health Officer, Dr. Hewlett, sanitation had been improved. Madras had improved its water-supply and was successfully applying a part of its sewage to agriculture. The condition of the vast regions of rural India showed that the teaching of the Sanitary Commissioners was beginning to take some effect. Hollows and excavations near villages were being filled up; brushwood and jungle, removed; wells, cleaned. Surface refuse was being removed; and tanks were being provided for sewage, to prevent it going into the drinking-tanks. From reports of particular places, Miss Nightingale drew her favourite moral. There was a village in South India which had suffered very badly from cholera and fever. It was in a foul and wretched state, and had polluted water. Then wells were dug and properly protected; the surface drainage was improved; cleanliness was enforced; trees were planted. The village escaped the next visitation of the scourge. Miss Nightingale had many hours of depression, and many occasions of disappointment, as Health Missionary for India; but in her Paper of 1874 she bore “emphatic witness how great are the sanitary deeds already achieved, or in the course of being achieved, by the gallant Anglo-Indians, as formerly she bore emphatic witness against the then existing neglects.” Only the fringe of the evil had been touched; but at any rate enough had been done to show that the old bogey, “the hopeless Indian climate,” might in course of time be laid by wise precautions. “There is a vast work going on in India,” said Dr. Sutherland; and in this work Miss Nightingale had throughout played a principal, and the inspiring, part. It was the opinion of an unprejudiced expert who, though he admired her devotion, did not always agree with her views or methods, that “of[184] the sanitary improvements in India three-fourths are due to Miss Nightingale.”[117]

But here, as in all things, her gaze was fixed upon the path to perfection. In her own mind she counted less the past advance than the future way. There was an Appendix to her Paper in which she preached the supreme importance of Irrigation—of irrigation, that is, combined with scientific drainage. Only by that means, she held, could yet more people “live and not die in India,” and could the country be raised to its full productive power. A letter which Sir Stafford Northcote sent her (April 29, 1874), in acknowledgment of her Paper on “Life or Death in India,” exactly expressed her own feelings. “How much,” he said, “you have done! and how little you think you have done! After all, the measure of our work depends upon whether we take it by looking backwards or by looking forwards, by looking on what has been accomplished or on what has revealed itself as still to be accomplished. When we have got to the top of the mountain, are we much nearer the stars or not?”




We are your Soldiers, and we look for the approval of our Chief.—Miss Agnes Jones (Letter to Miss Nightingale).

From a correspondent in the North of England: “I have got a colliery proprietor here to co-operate with the workmen to build a Hospital for Accidents. Will you kindly give your opinion on the best kind of building?” From a correspondent in London: “We are proposing to form a British Nursing Association. May we ask for your advice and suggestions?” These letters are samples of hundreds which Miss Nightingale received, and to all such applications she readily replied. She constituted herself, or rather she was constituted by her fellow-countrymen, a Central Department for matters pertaining to hospitals and nurses.

From all parts of the country, from British colonies and from some foreign countries, plans of proposed General Hospitals, Cottage Hospitals, Convalescent Homes were submitted to her. She criticised them carefully. When she was consulted at an earlier stage, she often submitted plans of her own. In all such cases, there were experts among her large circle of friends—architects, sanitary engineers, military engineers, hospital superintendents and matrons—to advise and assist her. And here a curiously interesting thing may be noticed. Miss Nightingale had begun her work as a Reformer with the military hospitals. So high was now their standard that she often went to them for models. Many plans for ideal hospitals were drawn for her at this time by Lieutenant W. F. Ommamney, R.E., at the War Office. The improvement of buildings and of[186] nursing went on concurrently, and Miss Nightingale used her influence in each department to improve the other. If she were consulted only about buildings, she would answer: “These plans are all very well, as far as they go; but your Hospital will never be efficient without adequate provision for a supply of properly trained nurses.” If she were asked to furnish a supply of nurses, she would say: “By all means; but you must satisfy me first that your buildings are sanitary.” Thus, when she was asked to send nurses to the Sydney Infirmary, she stipulated that plans of the buildings should be submitted; and when the War Office was negotiating for a supply of nurses for Netley, there was a voluminous correspondence about the improvement of the wards and of the nurses' quarters.

There was a great extension during these years of societies for the training of nurses, and of the introduction of trained nurses into infirmaries and other institutions. All this involved a large addition to Miss Nightingale's correspondence. As the nursing system extended, many questions arose with regard to the relation between the medical and the nursing staffs, and she was constantly referred to for suggestions and advice. She printed a code of “Suggestions” in 1868 dealing with such matters,[118] and three years later she and Dr. Sutherland drew up a Code for Infirmary Nursing which was approved by Mr. Stansfeld, the President of the newly-formed Local Government Board. Her correspondence was as extensive with individuals as with institutions. Hundreds of girls who thought of becoming nurses applied to her, and she generally answered their letters; but the supply of nurses barely kept pace with the demand. Miss Nightingale was impressed in particular by the lack of suitable applicants for the higher posts. There were many women anxious to take up nursing as a profession. There were few who possessed the social standing, the high character, trained intelligence, and personal devotion which were necessary to make them successful Lady Superintendents; and much of Miss Nightingale's correspondence during these years was to friends in various parts of the country who were begged to enlist promising recruits.



Among the women who sought out Miss Nightingale for advice were Queens and Princesses. She guarded very jealously, however, the seclusion which was necessary to enable her to do her chosen work, and she did not allow it to be invaded at will even by the most exalted personages. Her position as a chronic invalid gave her the advantage. She could pick and choose by feeling a little stronger or a little weaker. She made two rules which she communicated to her influential friends. She would not be well enough to see any Queen or Princess who did not take a personal and practical interest in hospitals or nursing; and she would never be well enough to receive any who did not come unattended by ladies or lords in waiting. Any interview must be entirely devoid of ceremonial; it must be simply between one woman interested in nursing and another. In 1867 the Queen of Prussia was paying a visit to the English court, and Queen Victoria asked Miss Nightingale through Sir James Clark to see Queen Augusta. Miss Nightingale was assured that the Queen had given much personal attention to hospitals. Miss Nightingale saw her (July 6) and found that the assurances were well founded:—

(Miss Nightingale to Julius Mohl.) 35 South Street, July 28 [1867]. I am a little unhappy because the Queen of Prussia's Secretary told Mad. Mohl that I had seen the Queen. I liked her. I don't think the mixture of pietism and absolutism is much more attractive at the Court of Prussia than at the Court of Rome. Still, I am always struck, especially with our own Royal family, how superior they are in earnestness and education to other women. I know no two girls of any class, of any country, who take so much interest in things that are interesting, as the Crown Princess of Prussia and Princess Alice of Darmstadt—especially in theological matters and administration.

The Queen of Holland, it will be remembered, had not been received; but at a later time Miss Nightingale saw her, in November 1868 and again in March 1870. “I think of you,” wrote Queen Sophie (March 29, 1870), “as one of the highest and best I have met in this world.” The Princess Alice asked for an interview in 1867 through Lady Herbert,[188] who was able to inform Miss Nightingale that “the Princess has been to see most of the hospitals in London with a view to learn all about them so as to improve those in Darmstadt.” Miss Nightingale saw the Princess in June, and in subsequent years there was much correspondence between them. But the royal lady who made the greatest impression on Miss Nightingale was the Crown Princess Victoria. It had been explained to Miss Nightingale by one of the Princess's ladies that “H.R.H. has always thought a life devoted to the comfort of fellow-beings and the alleviation of their sufferings the one most to be envied,” and that “she knows your Notes on Hospitals and Notes on Nursing almost by heart.” The Princess was in England at the end of 1868, and was full at the time of schemes for a new hospital at Berlin, for lying-in hospitals, for a training-school for nurses. She showed her practical purpose by sending to Miss Nightingale in advance her architect's plans. They had two long interviews in December, and Miss Nightingale had a very busy fortnight with Dr. Sutherland in collecting statistics about various lying-in hospitals and in preparing plans, with the assistance of the Army Medical Department and War Office Sanitary Committee, on the best model. Miss Nightingale was delighted with her visitor. “She took every point,” she told Dr. Sutherland, “as quick as lightning.” “I have a fresh neophyte,” she wrote to Sir John McNeill (Dec. 25, 1868), “in the person of the Crown Princess of Prussia. She has a quick intelligence, and is cultivating herself in knowledge of sanitary (and female) administration for her future great career. She comes alone like a girl, pulls off her hat and jacket like a five-year-old, drags about a great portfolio of plans, and kneels by my bedside correcting them. She gives a great deal of trouble. But I believe it will bear fruit.” That the inquiries of the Princess were searching, and her commissions exacting, appears from the correspondence:—

(Miss Nightingale to the Crown Princess of Prussia.) 35 South Street, Dec. 21 [1868]. Madam—In grateful obedience to Your Royal Highness's command, directing me to forward to Osborne before the 24th the commissions with which you favoured me, I send (1) the Portfolio of plans for the Hospital[189] near the Plotzen See, and, in this envelope, the criticism upon the plans. Also, in another envelope (2) a sketch of the Nursing “hierarchy” required to nurse this Hospital (with a Training School attached), even to ages desirable—as desired by Your Royal Highness. Also (3) the methods of continuous examination in use (with full-sized copies of the Forms) to test the progress of our Probationers (Probe-Schwestern). Also (4) lists of the clothing and underclothing (even to changes of linen) we give to and require from our Probationers and Nurses, and of the changes of sheets. Your Royal Highness having directed me to send patterns “in paper” of our Probationers' dress, I have thought it better to have a complete uniform dress such as our Probationers wear, for in-doors and out-doors, made for Your Royal Highness's inspection, even to bonnet, cap, and collar, which will arrive by this Messenger in a small box and parcel. I am afraid that the aspect of these papers will be quite alarming from their bulk. But I can only testify my gratitude for your Royal Highness's great kindness by fulfilling as closely as I can the spirit of your gracious will. I am sorry to say that I have not yet done encumbering your Royal Highness. The plans for Lying-in Cottages had to be completed at the War Office and are not quite ready. But they shall be forwarded “before the 24th.” I think we have succeeded in producing a perfectly healthy and successful Lying-in Cottage, by means of great sub-division and incessant cleanliness and ventilation, which includes the not having any ward constantly occupied. In one of these Huts we have had 600 Lyings-in consecutively without a single death or case of puerperal disease or casualty of any kind. (This experience is, I believe, without a fellow, but will, I trust, have many fellows before long.) Believe me, your Royal Highness's enquiry about these things does the greatest good, not only with regard to what is proposed in Prussia, but in stirring up the War Office, the Medical authorities, and other officials here to consider these vital trifles more seriously. And thus thousands of lives of poor women, of poor patients of all kinds, will be saved, even in England, through your Royal Highness's means. Hitherto Lying-in Hospitals have been not to cure but to kill. As I have again to trouble your Royal Highness about these subjects, I will not now enter into two or three other little things with which I was commissioned. May I beg always to be considered, Madam, the most faithful, ready and devoted of Your Royal Highness's servants.

(The Crown Princess of Prussia to Miss Nightingale.) Osborne, Dec. 24 [1868]. I don't wish to lose a minute in thanking you for your great kindness and for all the trouble you[190] have taken for me. Your letter is so excellent, and all the information you give is most valuable, and will be of untold use, not only to me as a guide in my humble endeavours to promote a serious, conscientious, and rational spirit in the treatment of sanitary matters, but to many others in Germany. Your precious time has not been wasted while you were writing for me, I assure you. The dress I think very neat and nice, and not clerical looking (which is, in my eyes, an advantage). I was so vexed that I forgot to tell you the other day how much I admired Una and the Lion. I read it this summer in Germany, and thought it touching and lovely in the extreme. I “colported” it right and left! After I have arrived at Berlin and had leisure thoroughly to go into every detail of the materials you have given me, I will write to you again. These few lines are only to express my earnest thanks. The Crown Prince wishes me to say how sorry he is never to have seen you. He shares my feelings when your name is mentioned. I trust that the next time I am in this country I shall see you again. I remain, dear Miss Nightingale, yours gratefully, Victoria.

Negotiations with the Nightingale Fund were presently opened, and the Crown Princess sent Fräulein Fuhrmann, who afterwards superintended the Victoria Training School for Nurses in Berlin (p. 204), to receive her own training as a Nightingale Nurse at St. Thomas's.


The Nightingale Training School had for many years been extending the area of its influence, and Miss Nightingale herself, in spite of her incessant work in other fields, never lost general control and supervision of it. Year after year, she kept up correspondence, both voluminous and intimate, with Mrs. Wardroper, the Matron. Her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, was now Chairman of the Council of the Nightingale Fund; her cousin, Mr. Henry Bonham Carter, had succeeded Mr. Clough as Secretary—a duty which he continues to discharge to this day. Sir Harry Verney saw Miss Nightingale frequently with regard to the business of the School. Between Mr. Bonham Carter and her there is a great mass of correspondence extending over forty years and more; conducted sometimes by an exchange of letters through the post, sometimes by notes of question and answer[191] at her house, as in the case of Dr. Sutherland. Mr. Bonham Carter, alike as Secretary of the Fund and as a cousin devoted to Miss Nightingale personally, gave his time and zeal without stint to the work; but he had independence of character. He was once asked how he contrived to do other things besides serve Miss Nightingale. “When it was getting late,” he explained, “I used to say, Now I must go home to dinner.” His devotion, good sense, and business-like habits contributed largely to the success of the undertaking, and saved Miss Nightingale much trouble in matters both of detail and of general administrative policy; but questions of what may be called the superior direction of the School were always referred to her, and there were many occasions on which her personal influence was felt to be indispensable. It was especially brought to bear whenever a contingent of Nightingale Nurses was sent from St. Thomas's to occupy new ground. The phrase quoted at the head of this chapter, from a letter by Miss Agnes Jones, when she was thus sent to pioneer work in the Liverpool Workhouse, exactly expresses one side of the relationship between the nurses and Miss Nightingale. But she was more to them than a Chief. She was not a distant and almost impersonal abstraction like “The Widow at Windsor.” The Lady in South Street was not only the queen of the Nightingale Nurses, she was also their mother. The principal lieutenants who went out on important service, and many members of the rank and file, maintained constant correspondence with her—sending to her direct reports, consulting her in difficulties, looking to her, and never in vain, for counsel and encouragement. Miss Nightingale took especial pains to help and to influence the Lady Superintendents who went from St. Thomas's in command of nursing parties. Among her earlier papers containing thoughts about her future work, there is more than one reference to “Richelieu's ‘Self-multiplication.’” She strove to extend her work by creating lieutenants in her own image.

One of the most important of the missionary voyages of the Nightingale Nurses during these years was to New South Wales. Miss Nightingale had for some time been in correspondence with Sir Henry Parkes, then Colonial[192] Secretary in New South Wales, about the nursing in the Sydney Infirmary, and in December 1867 Miss Osburn sailed with five nurses to take up the position of Lady Superintendent. The nurses arrived in time to nurse Prince Alfred, when he was shot during his visit to the Colony. There is a letter from Sir William Jenner to Miss Nightingale (July 4, 1868) saying, “I have received the Queen's commands to tell you how very useful they were. Her Majesty says, ‘She is sure this information will give Miss Nightingale much pleasure.’” In one respect the nurses were more successful than Miss Nightingale desired. At first all went well. There were difficulties with the doctors and others, of course, but Sir Henry Parkes was always helpful. There was “no flirting,” Miss Osburn reported (May 20), “and all the nurses cling round me in difficulties like true Britons.” But they did not cling for long. Their services were too much appreciated. In a few years' time all the five had either married or received valuable appointments outside the Infirmary, and Miss Osburn had to recruit her staff from the Colony itself. Miss Nightingale thought that the expedition had thus “failed”; but there was something to be said on the other side, and the diffusion of the Nightingale band did much to promote the extension of trained nursing in the Colony.

Another expedition of great importance was an extension of the Liverpool experiment to London. In 1868 Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Wyatt, the leader of a reform party in St. Pancras, had entered into correspondence with Miss Nightingale with regard to the new Infirmary (built under the Act of 1867) at Highgate; he submitted the plans of the building, and suggested the introduction of Nightingale Nurses. She approved the plans, encouraged him in his good work, and in the following year (1869) Miss Elizabeth Torrance was appointed matron, with nine nurses under her. The experiment was presently extended, and a training school for nurses was established at the Infirmary. There are about one hundred letters from Miss Torrance a year, a figure which will give some idea of the close touch which Miss Nightingale kept with important lieutenants. She considered Miss Torrance “the most capable Superintendent[193] they had yet trained” (1870), and the letters bear out the estimate. They are those of a canny, capable and devoted woman—taking everything quietly as part of the day's work, with no fussiness or needless self-importance. “I have never seen such nurses,” wrote the Medical Superintendent, when Miss Torrance and her staff had been at work for some months; “they are so thoroughly conversant with disease that one feels quite on one's mettle in practice. What strikes me most is the real interest they take in the work, and this is the secret of their success”—not attainable by the pauper nurses whom they displaced. Inspectors, Guardians, and other officials would have done well to feel quite on their mettle in Miss Torrance's presence also; for her letters show her to have been possessed of a humorous shrewdness which took the measure of men, by no means always at their own valuation. Miss Torrance amongst other reforms introduced useful work into the occupation of the inmates. “The achievement I am most proud of,” she wrote (1871), “is getting the men's suits cut out and made. I found a tailor in No. 2 Ward who cut out some, and I sent them into Nos. 1 and 4 to be made, but there was a tailor in No. 1 who made difficulties, ‘You see, ma'am, it's such a very old-fashioned cut.’” Once a week at least the Matron wrote reporting progress or difficulties to Miss Nightingale, who replied with advice, books, presents. Nurses, of whom the Matron reported well, came in batches to see Miss Nightingale. “They returned,” wrote Miss Torrance, of one occasion of the kind, “beaming with delight, but as they all talked about it at once I did not gather very clearly what passed. Sister A., however, feared that Sister B. ‘must have tried Miss Nightingale.’” Sister B., it seems, had the same fear about Sister A. Nurses and Matron alike regarded their reception by Miss Nightingale as a high privilege. “I always feel refreshed for months,” wrote Mrs. Wardroper (March 1871), “after one of those affectionate receptions you accord me.” None of Miss Nightingale's “soldiers” left her cabinet without feeling a better and a braver woman. Miss Torrance presently fell from grace in Miss Nightingale's eyes by becoming engaged to be married. At a critical period of the engagement,[194] she failed to keep some appointments at South Street, and Miss Nightingale did not recover equanimity till she recalled to herself a saying of Mr. Clough's: “Persons in that case should be treated as if they had the scarlet fever.”

In November 1869 there were receptions in South Street such as a sovereign sometimes accords to warriors or statesmen on the eve of a great emprise. A Superintendent of Nurses (Mrs. Deeble) and a staff of six Ward Sisters were setting out from St. Thomas's to take charge of the War Office Hospital at Netley. Miss Nightingale received them all, gave them presents and addressed words of encouragement. “That I have ‘seen Miss Nightingale’” wrote one of them, “will be one of the white mile-stones on my road, to which I shall often look back with feelings of gratitude and pleasure. I trust that I shall never forget some of the things you said to me, and that ‘looking up’ I may be enabled to show by my future life that your great kindness has not been thrown away.” “The Netley sisters,” wrote Mrs. Wardroper, “are overflowing with love and gratitude for all the interest and trouble you have so kindly taken for and in them. Your reception, pretty presents, and good advice have quite won their hearts. To know you, and to have heard from your own lips, that each one has your best wishes and prayer for success will do much to cheer and help them.” “I have been preaching to them four hours a day,” wrote Miss Nightingale to M. Mohl (Nov. 21), “and expounding Regulations. Some of them are very nice women. One was out with Dr. Livingstone and Bishop Mackenzie on the Zambesi Mission. One, a woman who would be distinguished in any society, accidentally read my little article on ‘Una,’ and wrote off to us the same night offering to go through our training (which she did) and join us.”

“Expounding Regulations” was always a part of Miss Nightingale's exhortation on such occasions. In this particular case she had a hand in making the Regulations. In other cases she often found them very stupid. They were generally made by men, who were incapable, she thought (as we have heard already), of devising suitable regulations for women. “Oh, how I wish there were no[195] men,” she wrote on one occasion when trying to compose a hospital quarrel. But even bad regulations must be observed, till they can be altered, and women did not always understand that some diplomacy was necessary to obtain the alteration. “Women,” she said, “are unable to see that it requires wisdom as well as self-denial to establish any new work.” As the work which the Nightingale Nurses had at this time to do was all new, there were many difficulties and most of them came up to Miss Nightingale for solution or advice. When a very long-winded letter arrived, she would often send it on unread to Dr. Sutherland, for him to digest and advise upon. It was her comfortable persuasion that he had nothing else to do, and she scolded him if there was any delay; but sooner or later he did the work for her, and his advice in such matters never failed in shrewd common sense. Sometimes he would say, “This letter shows a fit of temper on the nurse's part, and is a case for a little homily from you.” In such homilies Miss Nightingale would mingle an appeal to higher motives with a reference to her own example and experience—as in the following letter:—

(To a Discontented Nurse.) April 22 [1869]. Do you think I should have succeeded in doing anything if I had kicked and resisted and resented? Is it our Master's command? Is it even common sense? I have been even shut out of hospitals into which I had been ordered to go by the Commander-in-Chief—obliged to stand outside the door in the snow till night—been refused rations for as much as 10 days at a time for the nurses I had brought by superior command.[119] And I have been as good friends the day after with the officials who did these things—have resolutely ignored these things for the sake of the work. What was I to my Master's work? When people offend, they offend the Master, before they do me. And who am I that I should not choose to bear what my Master chooses to bear? You have many high and noble points of character. Else I should not write to you as I do. But the spirit of opposition in which you are working (or rather were at the time you wrote, for I am satisfied it was only an ebullition of the moment), and yet doing your work well and doing good, would, if it really were persisted in, materially increase the difficulties of that work to which, I am sure, you are devoted.



There was one failure in the work of the Nightingale Fund which led Miss Nightingale to write a new book, than which none ever cost her more labour. In 1867 the Midwifery School established in King's College Hospital[120] had to be closed owing to the high rate of mortality in the lying-in wards. As soon as the figures were brought to Miss Nightingale's notice, she set to work in examining the whole subject of mortality in lying-in wards. She soon found that no trustworthy statistics of mortality in child-bed had yet been collected. She searched for them throughout this country and from foreign hospitals and doctors. She discovered that in lying-in wards everywhere the death-rate was many times the amount of that which took place in home deliveries. This fact showed that public attention should at once be called to the subject, and at the same time it opened up larger questions. There was one school of medical opinion which held that the mortality must in the nature of things be large in lying-in wards; there was another which held that the high rate of mortality therein might be prevented. The inquiries which Miss Nightingale had made for the Crown Princess of Prussia[121] inclined her to the latter view, and she pursued her researches in all directions, collecting an immense mass of information and calling in the assistance of sanitary engineers and other authorities. It should be remembered in all this that the introduction of antiseptics has much altered the conditions since the time of Miss Nightingale's work now under consideration. Materials for a book accumulated, but time to put them into shape was wanting. Dr. Sutherland, on whose assistance she mainly relied, was no more able than she herself to give undivided attention to the subject; but at last with his help the book was written. It was published in October 1871, with the title Introductory Notes on Lying-in Institutions. The book did for this special subject something of the same service which Notes on Hospitals had done in the general sphere. Miss Nightingale showed by statistical[197] evidence that many lying-in wards and institutions were pest-houses; she showed the importance of isolation and extreme cleanliness; and furnished model rules, plans and specifications for sanitary lying-in hospitals. In the latter pages, the book was an extension of the Notes on Nursing to this special branch. She urged the importance of training-schools for midwives; described the ideal of an institution of the kind; and pleaded for “Midwifery as a Career for Educated Women.” There was much agitation at the time for the admission of women to the medical profession. Miss Nightingale in a letter addressed “Dear Sisters,” suggested that there was “a better thing for women to be than ‘medical men,’ and that is to be medical women.” She was in the country when the book was passing through the press; and Dr. Sutherland, in sending a last revise with some suggestions of his own, said (July 22), “I return the proof corrected. Don't swear, but read the reasons on the accompanying paper. It is a good thing you are at Lea Hurst or your ‘dear sisters’ would infallibly break your head. They will probably break your windows. However, you are clearly right, and let them scream and stamp. The Book is a very good contribution to the subject, and will excite surprise and some opposition. But the facts are too strong.” Miss Nightingale put out her book tentatively in a questioning spirit, as she explained in this characteristic dedication (which had received Mr. Jowett's imprimatur, but puzzled some of the reviewers):—

If I may dedicate, without permission, these small “Notes” to the shade of Socrates' Mother, may I likewise, without presumption, call to my help the questioning shade of her Son, that I who write may have the spirit of questioning aright and that those who read may learn not of me but of themselves? And further, has he not said: “The midwives are respectable women and have a character to lose.”[122]


The preparation of this book had been delayed by the Franco-German War of 1870–71, which brought a great[198] addition to Miss Nightingale's labours. There is a huge pile of documents on the subject amongst her Papers. A letter to an old friend gives an idea of one branch of the correspondence:—

(Miss Nightingale to Harriet Martineau.) 35 South Street, Feb. [1871]. Oh this year of desolation! The one gleam of comfort through it all was the rush of all English-speaking people, in all climates and in all longitudes,—not the rich and comfortable, but the whole mass of hard-working, honest, frugal, stupid people—who have contributed every penny they could so ill spare. Women have given the very shoes off their feet, the very suppers out of their children's mouths—not to those of their own creed, not to those of their own way of thinking at all, but—to those who suffered most. In this awful war, all, all have given—every man, woman, and child above pauperism. I have been so touched to receive from places I had never even heard of, but which it would take me a day to enumerate,—from congregations who had “seen my name in a stray London newspaper” as helping in the relief of the war sufferers—sums collected by halfpence (with a long letter to say how they wished the money spent)—from poor hard-working negro congregations in different islands of the West Indies—poor congregations of all kinds, Puritan chapels in my own dear hills, National Schools, Factories, London dissenting congregations without a single rich member, London ragged schools who having nothing to give, gave up their only feast in the year that the money might be sent to the orphans in the war “who want it more than we.”

Some of the letters from distant parts of the Empire show that Florence Nightingale had already become somewhat of a legendary figure. It was known that scenes of misery and horror were being enacted in Europe. It was assumed that she was ministering in the midst of them. In one of the letters there seems to be a confused idea that she was in two places at once—both directing the movement in London and nursing in some Red Cross hospital in France or Germany. And there is a sense in which this vague and legendary conception was true. Miss Nightingale played a busy part, though entirely behind the scenes, in the work of aid at the London headquarters; whilst among the devoted women who nursed the wounded or succoured other sufferers from the war, there were probably few who[199] did not derive inspiration from the example of the Crimean heroine.

The outbreak of the war had found English philanthropy unprepared. The British Government had been a party to the Geneva Convention, but nothing had been done to organize a Society under its rules until the alarm was sounded by Colonel Loyd Lindsay (Lord Wantage). A letter from him in the Times of July 22, 1870, led to the formation of the National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded, which afterwards became the British Red Cross Aid Society. One of the first acts of the Committee, of which Colonel Loyd Lindsay was Chairman, was to consult Miss Nightingale, and a letter from her was read to the public meeting at which the Society was constituted. The words of stirring appeal were received with loud cheers. If she had not been confined to a sick bed, she would have volunteered to go out as a nurse. As it was, she must leave that work to others, and she gave the volunteers a characteristic note of caution: “Those who undertake such work must be not sentimental enthusiasts, but downright lovers of hard work. If there is any work which is simple, stern necessity, it is that of waiting upon the sick and wounded after a battle—serving in war-hospitals, attending to and managing the thousand-and-one hard dry practical details which nevertheless mainly determine the question as to whether your sick and wounded shall live or die. If there is any nonsense in people's ideas of what hospital nursing is, one day of real duty will root it out. There are things to be done and seen which at once separate the true metal from the tinkling brass both among men and women.”[123] There were those amongst her entourage who wished that she could lay all other work aside and take control of the organization. The state of her health made this impossible, but she was closely connected with the Society's work throughout. Her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, and her cousin's husband, Captain Galton, were active members of the Executive Committee. Sir Harry's daughter, Miss Emily Verney, was an active[200] member of the Ladies' Executive Committee.[124] Captain Galton and her cousin, Mr. Henry Bonham Carter, were sent early in the war to visit the hospitals of France and Germany; and when the war was over, the task of reporting upon the correspondence of the Society's agents and of the English doctors was entrusted to Dr. Sutherland.[125] Through all these personal connections, Miss Nightingale kept close touch with the Society's work. She thought that there was a lack of vigour at the start. Why, she wanted to know, did not the Society advertise itself more? “If it had been in hiding from its creditors instead of being an Aid Society, it could not have had a more complete success; if it had been sick and wounded itself, what could it have done less?” Its advertisement ought to appear every day “immediately above the Theatrical Announcements—with a list of articles wanted, and an acknowledgement of those received. It makes me mad to see advertisements only of the ‘Voysey Defence Fund’ and the ‘Derby Memorial Fund.’ What does it matter whether Voysey is defended or not, and whether Lord Derby has a memorial or not?”[126] The Committee in reply hoped to do more presently; as it did—it collected nearly £300,000 and rendered a great deal of aid, both in France and in Germany. From the moment that the war was seen to be inevitable, Miss Nightingale had been deluged with correspondence. The French authorities applied to her for plans of temporary field hospitals. The Crown Princess of Prussia applied for assistance and advice in all sorts. “The dreaded letter has come,” she wrote to Dr. Sutherland; “what am I to answer; how to express sympathy with Prussia without alienating France?” Miss Nightingale's personal sympathies were rather on the French side. “I think,” she wrote (Dec. 20), “that if the conduct of the French for the last three months had been shown by any other nation it would have been called as it is sublime. The uncomplaining endurance, the sad and severe self-restraint of Paris under a siege now of three months would[201] have rendered immortal a city of ancient Rome. The Army of the Loire fighting seven days out of nine barefoot, cold and frozen, yet unsubdued, is worthy of Henry V. and Agincourt. And all for what? To save Alsace and Lorraine, of which Paris scarcely knows.” In writing to the Crown Princess on hospital matters she put in a plea for clemency in the hour of final victory. “Prussia would remember,” she was sure, “the future wars and misery always brought about by trampling too violently on a fallen foe, and Germany will show to an astonished Europe that moderation of which victorious nations have hitherto shown themselves incapable.” Miss Nightingale, here as in other matters, hoped more of human perfectibility than she was to find; the immediate future was to belie her picture alike of the severe self-restraint of Paris, and of the unexampled moderation of Prussia. In rendering aid to the sick and wounded she was, however, consistently impartial. Wherever she heard of good work being done, whether in France or in Germany, she was ready to help, and she gave disinterested advice to the nursing service in both armies. Throughout the war, she had a large correspondence both at home and with all sorts and conditions of people in France and Germany.

At home, she was diligent in collecting money and gifts in kind for the Aid Society. She wrote constant letters and memoranda to members of the Executive Society; advising on all matters, from the general administration of field ambulances to the pattern of hospital suits, vetoing (when she could) impracticable suggestions, sending lists of the things most urgently needed. She received and answered a constant stream of applications from persons inquiring what to send, and from doctors and nurses wanting to volunteer for service. Abroad, her correspondence was on a similar scale. Distributing agents of the Society, nurses, workers of all kinds wrote, consulting her in cases of perplexity or giving information on points that they thought likely to interest her. The private reports preserved among Miss Nightingale's papers contain a mass of information about the treatment of the sick and wounded, of which she expressed the opinion that it far surpassed in horror, as of course it vastly exceeded in scale, anything that she[202] had witnessed in the Crimea. Self-devotion on the part of volunteers, though it could not remedy the evils, was conspicuous in relieving them, and many letters to Miss Nightingale are eloquent of the inspiration which was derived from her example in the Crimea and from the messages of sympathy, encouragement and advice which she now sent. “Tell Miss Nightingale,” said the warm-hearted Grand Duchess of Baden, “that I have endeavoured to follow implicitly everything she has recommended, and that I love and respect her more than any one in the world.” There are letters, too, from English and German nurses and workers in which Miss Nightingale is addressed as “dearest of all friends” or “beloved mistress” and “queen.” Her services to both of the belligerents were recognized by decorations. The French Société de Secours aux Blessés conferred its bronze cross upon her (July 1871), and from H.M. the Emperor and King she received the Prussian Cross of Merit (Sept.). But there was more significance in what she gave than in what she received. Among the English ladies who rendered most devoted service during the war was the wife of an officer (Colonel Cox) who had known Miss Nightingale in the Crimea; among the German ladies who had done the like was Madame Werckner of Breslau. When the war was over, both ladies asked the favour of an interview with Miss Nightingale. Madame Werckner became her personal friend, and wrote with enthusiastic gratitude when she was asked to visit Embley: “the home of your childhood.” And Mrs. Cox wrote (July 15): “How can I ever thank you for the loving reception you gave me? I can only say that never whilst I live can it be forgotten.” To Mrs. Cox's work the English Committee referred in their Report. Of Madame Werckner Miss Nightingale told something in an address to the Probationers at St. Thomas's. “At a large German station, which almost all the prisoners' trains passed through, a lady went every night during all that long, long dreadful winter, and for the whole night, to feed and warm and comfort and often to receive the last dying words of the miserable French prisoners, as they arrived in open trucks, some frozen, some as dead, others to die in the station, all half-clad and starving. Night after night, as[203] these long, terrible trainsfull dragged their slow length into the station, she kneeled on its pavement, supporting the dying heads, receiving their last messages to their mothers; pouring wine or hot milk down the throats of the sick; dressing the frost-bitten limbs; and, thank God, saving many. Many were carried to the prisoners' hospital in the town, of whom about two-thirds recovered. Every bit of linen she had went in this way. She herself contracted incurable ill-health during these fearful nights. But thousands were saved by her means. She is my friend. She came and saw me, and it is from her lips I heard the story.”

The Crown Princess of Prussia also came to South Street, and “she let me tell her,” wrote Miss Nightingale,[127] “a good deal of behind the scenes of Prussian Ambulance work. I do like her so very much and twice as much now that she is really worn and ripened by genuine hard work and anxiety.” This visit was productive of large results. The Princess and Miss Nightingale had been in communication throughout the war—partly by direct correspondence, and partly through an English lady, Miss Florence Lees, who was serving in German hospitals. At the beginning of the war the Princess had telegraphed and written to Miss Nightingale begging her to recommend a thoroughly competent English lady for such duty. Miss Lees (Mrs. Dacre Craven) had been sent; she was one of the ablest of the ladies who received training at the Nightingale School, and was presently to play an important part in the development of trained nursing in London. Miss Lees was placed by the Crown Princess in charge of the nursing at a war hospital which she had arranged at Homburg; Miss Lees was also employed to visit and report upon the war hospitals at Metz and other places. She was in constant correspondence with Miss Nightingale, who from this and many other sources of information had formed a very poor opinion of the Prussian nursing, medical and ambulance service. After collating various reports with Dr. Sutherland, Miss Nightingale said to him that “the abnormally bad among the Crimean hospitals were luxurious compared with the normal Prussian[204] hospitals.” “The only Prussian hospitals up to the present standard of sanitary experience,” she added, “are those of the Princess herself, and in them it was H.R.H. who taught the doctors, and not the doctors who taught her.” I do not know whether she communicated to the Princess the further opinion that the root of the evil was the bureaucracy; “it shows what it means to be without the free play of public opinion, through Parliament and press, which calls every Public Office, and almost every Society, to account.” But upon the facts Miss Nightingale spoke freely, as she was requested to do, and the Princess asked her to send documents:—

(The Crown Princess of Germany to Miss Nightingale.) Osborne, July 28 [1871]. I return the deeply interesting and important papers which the Crown Prince and myself have read most attentively and word for word. The Crown Prince wishes me to thank you particularly for your having let him see these papers. Much was not new to him. You know how much interest he takes in sanitary matters, how anxious he is for reforms wherever needed. Every remark offered is therefore always gratefully received by us. Let me repeat, dear Miss Nightingale, how great a happiness it was to me to see you again. Ever yours, with sincerest admiration and respect, Victoria, Crown Princess of Germany.

Of the great and practical interest which the Princess already took in hospitals, we have heard above. The experiences of the Franco-Prussian War quickened it yet more, and in 1872 she drafted a report on hospital organization. Subsequently a Home and Nursing School, named after her, was established in Berlin, and the “Victoria Sisters,” following the lead of the Nightingale Nurses, undertook the nursing in municipal hospitals. The success of the Victoria Training School led in its turn to the establishment of similar institutions throughout Germany. And thus Miss Nightingale's words came true, that the trouble which she took to inform and inspire the Crown Princess “will bear fruit.”

The experience of the Franco-German War bore fruit in the better organization of the Red Cross movement, especially in this country, and the inspiration here too may[205] be traced back to Miss Nightingale. The “Red Cross” owes its inception, as already stated, to a Swiss physician, M. Henri Dunant. He had witnessed the horrors of war on the bloody field of Solferino, and he devoted his life thenceforward to the promotion, and then to the extension, of the Geneva Convention. In 1872 M. Dunant read a paper in London upon the movement. His first words were these: “Though I am known as the founder of the Red Cross and the originator of the Convention of Geneva, it is to an Englishwoman that all the honour of that Convention is due. What inspired me to go to Italy during the war of 1859 was the work of Miss Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.”[128]


It will have been seen that during the years treated in the foregoing chapters (1867–1871) Miss Nightingale did an enormous amount of work. Her health during the same period had been no better. Country air did not bring any accession of strength; there is evidence of sleepless nights in numbers of her letters dated in the small hours of the morning; and during 1870 and 1871 especially her letters and diaries speak of great weakness. She was able to do as much as she did only by the devotion of the same friend, Dr. Sutherland, whose relations with his task-mistress have been described in an earlier chapter. More and more, indeed, she seems to have fallen into the habit, which had become almost a necessity, of saying nothing, doing nothing, writing nothing (her letters to Mr. Jowett and a few other intimate friends alone excepted) without first consulting Dr. Sutherland. I have illustrated this point incidentally in previous pages, but such occasional references give an inadequate account of the extent to which she relied upon him. “The only way I can work now,” she wrote to him in 1870, “is by receiving written notes from you, and working them up into my own language, then printing and showing you the work.” Her Papers, with hundreds upon hundreds of drafts and memoranda in Dr. Sutherland's hand, show that such[206] was in fact the way in which the work was done, and the process was applied not only to things ultimately printed, but almost to the whole range of her correspondence. He was sometimes called upon to draft even the most delicate family letters. She was asked to suggest an inscription for a memorial to Agnes Jones at Liverpool. Dr. Sutherland had first to try his hand at it. She was put out by an unwarranted liberty which a publisher had taken with her name. The case was sent to Dr. Sutherland, with a pressing appeal, “What shall I do? I have no one to act for me.” He acted for her. He had artistic tastes, and served as eyes for her at the International Exhibition of 1871, when he selected some French bronzes for her to give to Mr. Jowett. Whenever she was asked to join a Society, or subscribe to a new institution, Dr. Sutherland had first to advise and report. Sometimes she accompanied her references to him with amusing comments, as to Uncle Sam in earlier days. Did Dr. Sutherland advise her to join a new “Central Philanthropic Agency”? She was inclined against it, remembering that “When Crosse invented a new insect, my grandmother was heard to exclaim, ‘Are there not enough insects already?’” Sometimes a reference may have been made only, or mainly, for the fun of the thing; as when the Census Paper was left at South Street in 1871 and she sent it off by special messenger to Dr. Sutherland at the War Office to know how she was to fill it up. “Am I the head of this household?” Dr. Sutherland forbore to say that no doubt was conceivable about that. “Occupation column: as I think that every body ought to have a defined occupation, I should like to put what mine is, but I don't know how to define it.” “Oh,” replied Dr. Sutherland, “say, Occupation, None.” The last column inquired whether the householder was “Deaf-and-dumb, blind, imbecile, or lunatic?” “I shall return,” said she, “Imbecile and Blind, and if everybody did the same now, it would be true.” “Don't,” replied he; “you are the exception.” But for the most part her references to him were on matters which either called for some quick application of worldly wisdom or involved considerable drudgery. His shrewd good sense never failed; and the drudgery, though it may have been delayed,[207] was always done in the end. She is asked to express an opinion on some Indian Health Reports, and is tired. Off they go to Dr. Sutherland, who replies: “I have been through them all; you may safely say they are very well done.” Or, pamphlets, memorials, prospectuses, are sent to her, and she is in no mood to master them. They are consigned to him; and in course of time neat little digests are returned, and she is advised what to do or say. Every important letter is similarly sent to him with a note saying, “What am I to answer?” or “What does all this come to?” or “Please advise.” “You must come to-morrow to see my letter before it goes.” “I want to ask you some questions, and you must be good.” In years when Miss Nightingale was much in the country (as in 1870 and 1871), Dr. Sutherland's daily work for her was the heavier, because all communications were through the post. There was fret and jar between them in personal intercourse, as we have heard, and opportunity for misunderstanding was increased when two busy people were exchanging ideas by letter. This was especially the case when any work was on hand of which the scope had not been precisely defined, and Miss Nightingale was often impatient. “I could do work,” she wrote on one occasion, “if it were real work, done at the least expenditure to myself. But to do a minimum of work at the greatest expenditure to myself (by driving, pumping, etc.) is now physically impossible to me.” Such complaints and such references to her weakness were frequent. To the latter Dr. Sutherland always referred in terms of sympathy—“I know you are very ill,” “I beg you to let me help as much as I can,” and so forth. With regard to the complaints, he sometimes laughed them aside: “Thanks for your parting kick, which is always pleasant to receive by them as likes it.” “You are a true Paddy, you like to trail your coat, but I won't tread on it.” Sometimes he defended himself—“If you knew what I have had to do, I am quite sure you would not have written about the proof as you have done”; and sometimes he refrained from defence other than simple denial—“I scarcely know how otherwise to reply to your attack than simply to state that it is groundless. Am I such a fool, I ask myself, as to do what she says I have[208] done?” But this admirable man never lost his temper, and never made her reproaches an occasion for declining to help her any more. “All I can say is, I am ready to help.” “I am at your orders in this as in all things.” Such is the continual note of his messages. In private meditations often, and in letters occasionally, Miss Nightingale spoke of herself as a “vampyre.” When she wrote in some such sense to Mr. Jowett, he told her to put such talk aside as idle, for “that way madness lies.” Yet in a sense there was an element of truth in what she said. She was terribly exacting. She accepted no excuses, made few allowances, and sometimes assumed that those who worked with her had nothing else to do. Dr. Sutherland was a hard worker, but allowed himself diversions. At Norwood he had a garden, and Miss Nightingale was sarcastic about his fondness for digging ponds. But he had also, besides a strong interest in their common work, an abiding admiration for the gifts, the character, and the self-devotion of his friend. In addition to his own bread-winning work, he gave an immense amount of time and labour to Miss Nightingale. In any estimate of her services to great public causes, and especially in connection with sanitation in India, an honourable place is due to the collaborator who helped her through many years with unfailing devotion.


[74] Mr. Farnall's Report, 1866, summarized in the Majority Report of the Poor Law Commission, 1909, p. 239. The statements which follow above are from An Account of the Condition of the Infirmaries of London Workhouses, Printed for the Association for the Improvement of Infirmaries, 1866.

[75] Rathbone's Organization of Nursing in a Large Town, p. 30.

[76] William Rathbone: a Memoir, p. 166.

[77] The public letter (Feb. 5, 1864) is printed in Mr. Rathbone's Workhouse Nursing: The Story of a Successful Experiment (Macmillan, 1867).

[78] See “Una and the Lion,” in Good Words, June 1868 (Bibliography A, No. 51).

[79] Letter to Madame Mohl, June 13, 1868.

[80] See Book I. chap. iii. stanzas 4 seq. of The Faerie Queene:—

“Her angel's face
As the great eye of heaven shyned bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place, etc.”

[81] Mill was at the time a member of a Select Committee on the Local Government and Local Taxation of the Metropolis; see above, p. 106. The Committee did not, however, touch Poor Law Administration.

[82] Above, p. 115.

[83] Previous legislation had empowered Guardians to separate the sick, etc., but had set up no administrative or financial machinery.

[84] M. Husson, Director of the Assistance Publique, had been in London in 1865. Miss Nightingale had procured him various introductions and facilities, and he had reported his impressions to her.

[85] Letter to the Rev. Mother of Bermondsey, March 1867.

[86] The history of the matter is succinctly told in the Majority Report of the Poor Law Commission, 1909, pp. 235 seq.

[87] By Mr. Villiers in the House of Commons, February 21; and in the House of Lords on March 19 by the Earl of Devon, who, in moving the second reading of Mr. Hardy's Bill, said: “It would be improper on such an occasion to omit reference to the improved feeling on the subject which had resulted from the admiration the country must feel for the exertions of that excellent and gifted woman, Miss Nightingale, whose name would always be received with that respect which was due to her Christian activity and self-devotion.”

[88] Miss L. Freeman.

[89] For details on this subject, see Majority Report, 1909, pp. 240–242.

[90] See below, p. 405.


Free as air.
I don't care.
Go away
To Malta-y.
I don't care.
Let Sir John Hall
Be Director-Generall.
I don't care.
As for India-y
Let her have her way.
I don't care.
Free as air.
I don't care.

[92] Life of Sir Bartle Frere, vol. ii. pp. 38, 39.

[93] For William Broadhead and the rattening outrages at Sheffield, see McCarthy's History of our own Times, vol. iv. p. 156.

[94] Above, p. 33.

[95] For its title, etc., see Bibliography A, No. 52.

[96] To Captain Galton (July 16).

[97] She had made use, after all, it will be observed, of Dr. Sutherland's visit to “Astley's” (above, p. 110).

[98] The “little red book” was the reprint of Miss Nightingale's Observations; see above, p. 36.

[99] Letter to Madame Mohl, March 26, 1869.

[100] He retired at the end of 1869, and was appointed to a post in the Office of Works. Miss Nightingale intervened (through representations to Lord de Grey and Mr. Cardwell) to secure his continuance as a member of the Army Sanitary Committee.

[101] See below, p. 196.

[102] In a letter to Madame Mohl, March 26, 1869.

[103] In the same document Dr. Sutherland is begged to do the like for her (1) Notes on Lying-in Hospitals (published in 1871; see below, p. 196), and (2) “Paper on selling lands with houses in towns” (see above, p. 92). At a later time she sent the second batch of Pauperism Notes to Dr. Sutherland; but he was of opinion that they required complete rewriting.

[104] For the former point, see the Annual Sanitary Reports; for a summary of the latter works, see Sir William Hunter's Earl of Mayo, pp. 177–8.

[105] The other day in a bookseller's catalogue of “Association Books” I found this item: “Florence Nightingale's Notes on Lying-in Institutions. Presentation copy, with autograph inscription, ‘To His Excellency the Lord Napier, Madras, this little book, though on a most unsavoury subject, yet one which, entering into His Excellency's plans for the good of those under his enlightened rule, is not foreign to his thoughts—is offered by Florence Nightingale, London, Oct. 10, '71.’”

[106] Blue-book, 1870–71, p. 5; and see Bibliography A, No. 127.

[107] Captain Galton took occasion in 1876 to render a tribute to Dr. Sutherland's services. “Possessed of high general culture, of remarkably acute perception, of a very wide experience, and of a perfectly balanced judgment, he has been the moving mind in the proceedings of the Army Sanitary Commission since its formation.” (Journal of the Society of Arts, vol. xxiv. p. 520).

[108] According to the Sanitary Blue-book for 1869–70, the death-rates per 1000 were: Bombay 19.2, London 23.3, Calcutta 31.9, Liverpool 36.4. In 1910 the order was very different: London 12.7, Liverpool 17.7, Calcutta 23.0, Bombay 35.7. In four years (1864–8) the death-rate in Bombay had fallen from 31.3 to 19.2; the rise in modern times is due to the industrialization of the town.

[109] To Miss Nightingale; in the Blue-book (p. 186) it is similarly stated that “in three years the masses have begun to learn that such scourges as cholera, fever and the like can be prevented by the ordinary processes of sanitation.”

[110] Robert Cornelius Napier (1810–90), created Baron Napier of Magdala, 1868. Miss Nightingale's other friend, the Governor of Madras, Baron Napier (in the Scottish peerage), was created Baron Ettrick in the United Kingdom peerage, 1872. In first signing himself “Napier and Ettrick” in a letter to Miss Nightingale, he begged “the high priestess of irrigation” to observe that his new title was “watery.”

[111] In succession to Sir William Mansfield (Lord Sandhurst). On his return from India Lord Sandhurst came to see Miss Nightingale (July 8, 1870), and they corresponded afterwards.

[112] Of Lord Lawrence and Sir Bartle Frere, Miss Nightingale wrote to Madame Mohl (March 26, 1869): “You can ask Sir Bartle Frere about Sir John Lawrence if you like. But they are so unlike, yet each so roundly perfect in his own way, that they can never understand each other—never touch at any point, not thro' eternity. I love and admire them both with all my mind and with all my heart, but have long since given up the slightest attempt to make either understand the other. But each is too much of a man, too noble, too chivalrous, to denigrate the other.”

[113] The substance of much of her Memorandum to Lord Mayo was embodied in the “Observations” which she contributed to the Indian Sanitary Blue-book, 1869–70; see especially p. 43.

[114] Bibliography A, No. 56.

[115] See Bibliography A, Nos. 57, 62.

[116] Captain Galton, “On Sanitary Progress in India,” 1876 (Journal of the Society of Arts, vol. xxiv. pp. 519–534.) This is the best short account of the matter that I have come across. It is more detailed than Miss Nightingale's Paper of 1874. For further particulars, a reader should, of course, refer to the Annual Sanitary Blue-books.

[117] So Sir Bartle Frere reported to Miss Nightingale that Sir John Strachey had said to him; and Sir John wrote in much the same sense to Miss Nightingale herself.

[118] Bibliography A, No. 49 (note).

[119] See Vol. I. p. 291.

[120] Vol. I. p. 464.

[121] See above, p. 189.

[122] Theaetetus, 150.

[123] The letter is printed in the Times of August 5, 1870. It was dated August 2, “the day,” as Miss Nightingale noted in the letter, “of Sidney Herbert's death nine years ago.”

[124] She died in 1872—“such a genius for working for men,” Miss Nightingale wrote of her, “so lovely, so loving, and so beloved.”

[125] Report of the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded during the Franco-German War, 1871, pp. 149–177.

[126] Letters to Captain Galton, August 1870.

[127] Letter to Harriet Martineau, Sept. 20, 1870.

[128] M. Dunant's Paper is reported in the Times of August 7, 1872. He sent a copy of it to Miss Nightingale: see Bibliography B, No. 31.




I ask no heaven till earth be Thine,
Nor glory-crown, while work of mine
Remaineth here. When earth shall shine
Among the stars,
Her sins wiped out, her captives free,
Her voice a music unto Thee,
For crown, New Work give Thou to me.
Lord here am I.

I found this in an intensely evangelical Baptist American's work—a lecture he had delivered upon me. Now these lines appear to me exactly true, and an extraordinary advance in the way of truth on English Evangelicalism which banishes work, like sin, from heaven, and has no idea that heaven is to be made out of earth by us.—Florence Nightingale (from a letter to her father, 1869).




I am glad that you have given up drudgery for public offices.… The position which you held was always a precarious one, because dependent on “temples of friendship” and the goodwill of the Minister. I am glad that you have a straightforward work to do now in which you are dependent on yourself.… I want you to have a new life and interest. The way of influencing mankind by ideas is the more excellent way.—Benjamin Jowett (Letters to Miss Nightingale, 1871, 1872).

“Something which you said to me on Sunday has rather disquieted me, and I hope that you will allow me to remonstrate with you about it. You said that you were going to ask admission as a Patient to St. Thomas's Hospital. Do not do this. (1) Because it is eccentric and we cannot strengthen our lives by eccentricity. (2) Because you will not be a Patient but a kind of Directress to the institution, viewed with great alarm by the doctors. (3) When a person is engaged in a great work I do not think the expense of living is much to be considered; the only thing is that you should live in such a way that you can do your work best. (4) I would not oppose you living at less expense if you wish, though I think that a matter of no moment; but I would live independently. (5) Do you mean really to live as a Patient? it will kill you. I do not add the annoyance to your father of a step which he can never be made to understand; I look at the matter solely from the point of view of your own work. I have cared about you for many years; and though I have little hope of prevailing with you, I would ask you not to set aside these reasons without consideration.” So Mr. Jowett wrote to Miss Nightingale on June 22, 1872. “I am flattered to hear,” he wrote a[212] little later (July 11), “that you have disregarded duty and conscience for my sake. I hope that you will never in future obey a conscience which tells you to kill yourself. Will you try to hope and be at peace; and just ask of God time to complete your work? You who have done so much for others ought sometimes to reflect that you have had a great blessing and happiness.”

The intention which Miss Nightingale had formed and from which Mr. Jowett dissuaded her was not a passing fancy. It was in accord with a deep-seated conviction, as may be seen from a document already quoted (p. 103). Nor, though she listened to Mr. Jowett's advice, did she entirely abandon her purpose. Later in the year, she still thought of giving up her pleasant house in South Street, and she set various friends to report upon furnished apartments in the immediate neighbourhood of St. Thomas's Hospital. They could not find anything that seemed suitable, and she gave up the idea; but as she could not go to St. Thomas's, she contrived, as we shall hear in a later chapter, that St. Thomas's should come to her. She devoted herself from this time more largely than heretofore to the detailed supervision of the Nightingale School. Both in what she did, and in what she now left undone, the year 1872 marks a new departure in her life. It is explained by a summary entry in her diary: “This year I go out of office.”

Miss Nightingale had been “in office,” as she called it, continuously since her departure for Scutari in October 1854. She had been closely employed, that is to say, sometimes officially, sometimes unofficially, upon the administrative work of various Departments in matters pertaining to her special interests. With the advent of Mr. Gladstone to power in 1868, her work in this sort had much diminished. Her friend, Captain Galton, had gone from the War Office. She occasionally intervened in minor matters, as on one occasion when her friend, Mr. Lowe, agreed with Mr. Cardwell to accept her view about a certain pension to the widow of an officer, and there were other cases of the kind: as when she obtained an attentive hearing from Mr. Bruce (Home Secretary) for a memorandum which she submitted on the working of the Contagious Diseases Act. But her[213] constant employment in connection with the War Office was over. She had argued with herself, in some meditations during 1871, whether she ought to make a bid, as it were, for “office” again. She could still exercise a certain official influence, she thought, if she chose to seek out Ministers and ask them to call upon her. But the political times were out of joint, she argued on the other side, so far as her special aptitudes were concerned. The strength of Mr. Gladstone's Government was thrown into political reform, not into administration; the administration of the departments, as she was not alone in thinking, was defective. There are many letters of this period in which she contrasts the days of Peel and Sidney Herbert with those of Gladstone or Disraeli. “But I must stop,” she says in one of them, “or you will say that I am aping Southey who said, you know, that the last Ministry was so bad that nothing could be worse except the present; but Coleridge differed from him, for he thought the present Ministry so bad that nothing could be worse except the last.”[129] At any rate what Miss Nightingale cared for and was fitted for, she said to herself, was only administration; in the years when she was “in office” she had not only written Reports, she had been able to organize the mechanism for carrying them out. Now that administration was going, as she thought, to the dogs, it was time for her to be out of office. That such was the lot appointed to her, was borne in by something that happened early in 1872. In February Lord Mayo was assassinated—a personal grief to Miss Nightingale and “a great blow,” she said, to her cause; and Lord Northbrook was appointed to succeed him as Governor-General. Miss Nightingale was personally acquainted with Lord Northbrook, who had been a friend (as also for a time a colleague) of Sidney Herbert, but he left for India without coming to see her. “You have worked for eternity,” wrote Mr. Jowett (April 3), to whom she had reported the new Viceroy's neglect; “why should you be troubled at the Governor-General not coming to see you (as he most certainly ought to have done)? Put not your trust in princes or in princesses or in the War Office or in the India Office; all that sort of thing necessarily[214] rests on a sandy foundation. I wonder that you have been able to carry on so long with them.” Lord Northbrook was friendly nevertheless, as appears from his reply when she wrote and asked him to see Mr. Clark, the sanitary and civil engineer:—

(Lord Northbrook to Miss Nightingale.) Calcutta, Jan. 3 [1873]. I had great pleasure in seeing Mr. Clark, for I had seen his works at Barrachpore and knew of the great results which, so far as the statistics up to the present time can be said to prove them, have followed from the supply of pure water to Calcutta. I hope soon to see his drainage works at the Salt Lakes, and I have got the particulars of his plan for catch-water roofs for military buildings, which I will look at carefully as soon as I can. At present I am a little overwhelmed with business which has been accumulating during my tour. You may be assured of two things, that I fully understand the importance of pure water for the soldiers, and that I shall always receive with pleasure and consider with attention any suggestions, which you may kindly give me, both on your own account and because you were so much associated on these matters with my old master, Lord Herbert. Yours very sincerely, Northbrook.


The question had become instant thereupon, What was she to do next? Mr. Jowett's letters to her at this time, as also her own private notes, show that she was in a mood of great depression; due in part to much physical weakness and suffering, but in part also to unsettlement in her plan of life. She knew not exactly what to be at. She saw before her, as she wrote, “no consecutive path growing out of one's own deeds, but only a succession of disjointed lives and unconnected events.” “Never,” she wrote again, “has God let me feel weariness of active life, but only anxiety to get on. Now in old age I never wish to be relieved from new work, but only to have it to do.” With what zeal she threw herself into fuller work for the Nightingale[215] School at St. Thomas's, we shall hear; but that was not enough. She could not see nurses and write to nurses all day long—though indeed she devoted to such duties as many hours as some people would consider a sufficient day's work, and besides she was now spending a large part of the year with her father or mother in the country. She needed some recreation, and the only recreation she ever found was in change of work. She sought no “glory-crown” over folded hands. Mr. Jowett seized the occasion to repeat his advice that she should find recreation in literary work. Now that she meant to free herself from official drudgery, let her gain permanent influence by writing books or essays. “I think,” he said, “that you seem to me to have more ideas than any one whom I know.” And again (Dec. 14, 1871): “You have many original thoughts, but you either insert them in Blue-books or cast them before swine—that is me, and I sometimes insert them in sermons. You should have a more consecutive way of going on.” She recalled, too, advice and remonstrances which she had received from Mr. Mill. In 1867 the “National Society for Woman's Suffrage” was founded. Mill had asked her to join it and she had at first refused:—

(John Stuart Mill to Miss Nightingale.) Blackheath Park, August 9 [1867]. As I know how fully you appreciate a great many of the evil effects produced upon the character of women (and operating to the destruction of their own and others' happiness) by the existing state of opinion, and as you have done me the honour to express some regard for my opinion on these subjects, I should not like to abstain from mentioning the formation of a Society aimed in my opinion at the very root of all the evils you deplore and have passed your life in combating. There are a great number of people, particularly women, who, from want of the habit of reflecting on politics, are quite incapable of realizing the enormous power of politics, that is to say, of legislation, to confer happiness and also to influence the opinion and the moral nature of the governed. As I am convinced that this power is by far the greatest that it is possible to wield for human happiness, I can neither approve of women who decline the responsibility of wielding it, nor of men who would shut out women from the right to wield it. Until women do wield it to the best of their ability, little or great, and that in a direct open manner, I am convinced that the evils of which I know you to be[216] peculiarly aware can never be satisfactorily dealt with. And this conviction must be my apology for troubling you.

see caption

(Miss Nightingale to John Stuart Mill.) 35 South Street, August 11 [1867]. I can't tell you how much pleased I was nor how grateful I feel that you should take the trouble to write to me. And if I ill-naturedly answer your question by asking one, it is because I have scarcely any one who can give me (as my dear friend, Mr. Clough, long since dead, said) a “considered opinion.” That women should have the suffrage, I think no one can be more deeply convinced than I. It is so important for a woman to be a “person,” as you say. And I think I see this most strongly in married life. If the woman is not a “person,” it does almost infinite harm even to her husband. And the harm is greatest when the man is a very clever man and the woman a very clever woman. But it will be years before you obtain the suffrage for women. And in the meantime there are evils which press much more hardly on women than the want of the suffrage. And will not this when obtained put women in opposition to those who withhold these rights from them, so as to retard still further the legislation which is necessary to put them in possession of their rights? I ask humbly, and I am afraid you will laugh at me. Could not the existing disabilities as to property and influence of women be swept away by the legislature as it stands at present? and equal responsibilities be given, as they ought to be, to both men and women? I do not like to take up your time with giving instances, redressible by legislation, in which my experience tells me that women, and especially poor and married women, are most hardly pressed upon now. No matron, serving on a large scale as I have done, and with the smallest care for her Nurses, can be unaware of these. Till a married woman can be in possession of her own property, there can be no love or justice. But there are many other evils, as I need not tell you. Is it possible that, if woman suffrage is agitated as a means of removing these evils, the effect may be to prolong their existence? Is it not the case that at present there is no opposition between the two elements of the nation, but that, if both had equal political power, there is a probability that the social reforms required might become matter of political partizanship, and so the weaker go to the wall? I can scarcely expect that you will have time to answer my humble questions.

As to my being on the Society you mention, you know there is scarcely anything which, if you were to tell me that it is right politically, I would not do. But I have no time. It is 14 years this very day that I entered upon work which has never left me ten minutes' leisure, not even to be ill. And I am obliged never to give my name where I cannot give my work. If you will not[217] think me egotistical, I will say why I have kept off the stage of these things. In the years that I have passed in Government offices, I have never felt the want of a vote—because, if I had been a Borough returning two members to Parliament, I should have had less administrative influence. And I have thought that I could work better for others off the stage than on it. Added to which, I am an incurable invalid, entirely a prisoner to my room. But I entirely agree, if I may be allowed to agree with so great an authority, that women's “political power” should be “direct and open,” not indirect. And I ought to ask your pardon for occupying you for one single moment with my own personal situation.

As you have had the kindness to let me address you, I cannot help putting in one more word on a subject very near my heart—the India Sanitary Service. I have worked very hard at this for six years. And during all those years, my great wish has been: would it be possible to ask Mr. Mill for his help and influence? But you were so busy. Pray believe me, dear Sir, ever your faithful servant, Florence Nightingale.

Mr. Mill found time for a “considered opinion,” of great elaboration and weight; it has been printed elsewhere.[130] With his reply to Miss Nightingale's humble but argumentative questions, we are not here concerned. Though she never took any prominent part in the movement for female suffrage, she joined the Society in 1868, allowed her name to be placed on the General Committee in 1871, was an annual subscriber to its funds, and in 1878 sent an expression of her opinion on the subject for publication.[131] It was, however, Mr. Mill's remarks upon her “personal situation” that now, in 1872, came back to her. “If,” he had said, “you prefer to do your work rather by moving the hidden springs than by allowing yourself to be known to the world as doing what you really do, it is not for me to make any observations on this preference (inasmuch as I am bound to presume that you have good reasons for it) other than to say that I much regret that this preference is so very general among women.” She ought not, he went on to suggest, to hide her good deeds; and “finally I feel,” he wrote, “some hesitation in saying to you what I think of the responsibility that lies upon each one of us to stand steadfastly, and with[218] all the boldness and all the humility that a deep sense of duty can inspire, by what the experience of life and an honest use of our own intelligence has taught us to be the truth.” To some of this expostulation she had at the time a conclusive rejoinder. She could not write to the Times and say, “Be it known that I suggested such and such a dispatch to a Secretary of State, and am corresponding in such and such a sense with a Governor-General.” But if she were out of office, the plea for seclusion behind the scenes failed; nor was it ever perhaps of much cogency in relation to her views on religious and social matters. Now that she had “gone out of office,” was it not her duty to come into the open with her pen?


The first literary task which Miss Nightingale set herself under this impulse took the form of a series of magazine articles, in which she hoped to embody the leading ideas contained in the voluminous Suggestions for Thought already described (Vol. I. p. 470). “During the ten years and more that I have known you,” wrote Mr. Jowett (Oct. 31, 1872), “you have repeated to me the expression ‘Character of God’ about 1000 times, but I can't say that I have any clear idea of what you mean.” Why did she not try and explain? In an earlier letter (Feb. 28, 1871) Mr. Jowett had suggested “the form of short papers or essays.” She now wrote three of them (of which the first two were published)—entitled respectively “A ‘Note’ of Interrogation,” “A Sub-Note of Interrogation: What will our Religion be in 1999,” and “On what Government night will Mr. Lowe bring out our New Moral Budget? another Sub-Note of Interrogation.” In the first Paper, Miss Nightingale in a questioning and allusive style defined her conception of God as a God of Law, whose character may be learnt from social and moral science, and defended such a conception against some current ideas of Christian churches on the one side, and against the too cold and impersonal creed, as she thought, of Positivism on the other. The affinity of her doctrine at some points with the creed of Positivism is obvious; but she held as an axiom that the existence of[219] law implied a law-giver; and “it is a very different thing,” she wrote elsewhere,[132] “fighting against evil for our own sakes or fighting for the sake of the Law-Giver who arms us—fighting with or without a Commander.” The scope of the second Paper is harder to describe, for it throws out a large number of criticisms and suggestions on life, morals, and philosophy in no very closely related order. The general idea, however, is that the purification of religion requires not destructive criticism but reconstruction and a re-ordering of modern life on the lines of social service; in which latter connection Miss Nightingale paid a glowing tribute to the pioneer of East-end “settlers.”[133] These two Papers, though they attempt to cover too much ground in a small space, abound in happy things by the way. We are told, for instance, that Matthew Arnold's Literature and Dogma is “marred by a tendency not to fight like a man but to scratch like a cat.” The doctrine of eternal punishment is criticized in the words of the pauper who said to his nurse after seeing the chaplain, “It does seem hard to have suffered so much here, only to go to everlasting torments hereafter.” The creed of some contented politicians is hit off by saying that they talk of “the ‘masses,’ as if they were Silurian strata.” The third of Miss Nightingale's Papers is the hardest to describe, because it is the most crowded of the series. Its practical purpose may be said in the language of later politics to be a plea for “social reform.” “There must be a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a Budget, for Morality and Crime, as for Finance.” Her conception of social and moral science as an almost statistical study[134] is glanced at, and the controversy between Free Will and Necessity is disposed of by the way. Miss Nightingale sent her Papers successively to Mr. Froude. He was delighted with the first and with the second. “Your second Note,” he said, “is even more pregnant than the first. I cannot tell how sanitary, with disordered intellects, the effects of such Papers will be.” They appeared in Fraser's Magazine for May and July 1873. Carlyle was not[220] so favourably impressed. Miss Nightingale's second Paper, he said, was like “a lost lamb bleating on the mountain.” Mr. Froude's criticism on the third was that it lacked focussing: “the whole art of getting culinary fire out of intellectual sunlight depends on that.” The third article, accordingly, was not printed. Miss Nightingale did not relish Carlyle's remark, and her equanimity was perhaps not restored by the domestic assurance that Florence's mistake had been in not submitting the manuscript to her sister's revision. One of the best things in the Paper which was not published was a Postscript. The first article had been widely noticed in the pulpit and the press, and had brought to the author many letters—some sympathetic, as from Mr. Edward Maitland,[135] others sorrowfully critical. There were those who promised to pray for her conversion daily, and invited her to join them in that exercise. They had not read the article, it seemed, but only a review of it; and among the printed critiques was one which began: “My knowledge of the scope of this Paper is derived from the report of a discourse upon it.” In her proposed Postscript Miss Nightingale took “this opportunity of thanking unknown friends for their sympathy and suggestions, and, still more, unknown friend-enemies for their criticisms; but yet more should I have thanked the latter, had their criticisms been on my poor little Article in its rough state—the ‘Original Cow and Snuffers’—and not on seeing the Extract of a Criticism of an Extract of my Article. Certainly a new Art must have arisen in my elderly age:— out-magazining magazining. And I hereby confidentially inform the shade of Mr. Fraser that he may, on application to me, see columns, closely-printed columns, of small (but cruel) print upon a Paper which the writers state that they have not read.—What! read a Paper which we are going to review!—Yes, Mr. Fraser, this is what magazine-ing has come to. Articles are not even written on original works, even if that work be only an Article, but on a Review of an[221] Article; and not even upon that, but upon a Review of a Review of an Extract of an Article, or sometimes upon an Extract of a Sermon upon an Extract of a Review of an Article. I ought to feel flattered: I try to feel flattered. But, Mr. Fraser, is life long enough for this? is this the way to ‘human progress’? And … but as this will not be read by my unknown critics, I come to a stop.” The practice which Miss Nightingale thus satirised has not become less frequent in later days when the newspapers supply their readers not with political speeches but with opinions based on summaries of them, and when what are called “educational handbooks” aim at giving the student the power of passing a critical judgment upon authors without the necessity of reading them.


A few days after the appearance of Miss Nightingale's first Paper in Fraser, Mr. Mill died of a “local endemic disease” at his house near Avignon. She was profoundly moved:—

(Miss Nightingale to Julius Mohl.) May 20 [1873]. John Stuart Mill's death was a great shock to me. Mr. Grote used to say of him “Talk of Mill's Logic! why he is thrilling with emotion to the very finger-ends.” That is just what he was. Now, speaker and subject are both gone. He said at Mr. Grote's funeral, with an agony of tears, “We might have kept him 10 years longer.” And now we say of himself with tears “We might have kept him for 10 years longer.” He was only 67. He was always urging me to publish. He used to say, with the passion which he put into everything he did say: “I have no patience with people who will not publish because they think the world is not ripe enough for their ideas: that is only conceit or cowardice. If anybody has thought out any thing which he conceives to be truth, in Heaven's name, let him say it!” I did not answer that letter. I thought that this year (I have left much of the India and War Office work, and much of it has left me) I would resume with John Stuart Mill and do as he told me. I put the article in Fraser's Magazine (which I now send you) to please him. And now he is dead, and will never know that I intended to do what he wished. He used to say, “Tell the world what you think—your experience. It will probably strike the world more than anything that could be told it.” He quoted my “Stuff” in his book, which he ought not to have done.[136] I published my book on Socrates' mother[137] partly to please him.[222] It was a very odd thing: it was a subject he had taken up: he was President of a Society for that. When he was in England (till a fortnight before his death) I could not find his address: I was so overwhelmed with business and illness. I did not know he was going away. And I did not send him this book. And now he is dead, and will never know. But I scarcely regret his death. He was not a happy man. He was a man who was so sure to develop very much in a future life. He had queer religious notions: did not believe in a God or in a future life: but believed in a sort of conflict between two Powers of Good and Evil. I remember showing you one of his letters. And you said it was just like Zoroaster. But he was the most truly “Liberal” man I ever knew. If it were for the cause of Truth that he should be defeated, he would have liked to have been defeated. And now he is dead. And we shall never see his like again.

It was characteristic of Miss Nightingale that she entered into correspondence with Mr. Chadwick on the sanitary state of Mr. Mill's house and the climatic conditions of Provence in May. Mr. Chadwick had to put himself right in her eyes by explaining that he had not been consulted by their friend on those subjects and had never been invited by him to Avignon.


Other literary work which occupied Miss Nightingale a good deal at this time was undertaken either to help Mr. Jowett or in accordance with his advice. He had urged her to work out her notion of Divine Perfection, and her theory of the Family in relation to “sisterhoods” and other forms of association. Miss Nightingale wrote Essays accordingly on “What is the Evidence that there is a Perfect God?” on “What is the Character of God?” and on “Christian Fellowship as a Means to Progress.” The gist of the latter essay may be given in a letter of an earlier date:—

(Miss Nightingale to Benjamin Jowett.) July [1870].… I think that Faraday's idea of friendship is very high: “One who will serve his companion next to his God.” And when one thinks that most, nay almost all people have no idea of friendship at all except pleasant juxtaposition, it strikes one with admiration. Yet is Faraday's idea not mine. My idea of a friend is one who[223] will and can join you in work the sole purpose of which is to serve God. Two in one, and one in God. It almost exactly answers Jesus Christ's words. And so extraordinarily blessed have I been that I have had three such friends. I can truly say that, during the 5 years that I worked with Sidney Herbert every day and nearly all day, from the moment he came into the room no other idea came in but that of doing the work with the best of our powers in the service of God. (And this tho' he was a man of the most varied and brilliant conversational genius I have ever known—far beyond Macaulay whom I also knew.) This is Heaven; and this is what makes me say “I have had my heaven.”

The two other friends with whom in former time she had been a fellow-worker were Arthur Clough and her Aunt, Mrs. Smith. Miss Nightingale's other Essays led to much correspondence with Mr. Jowett, but as they failed to come up to his standard they were laid aside. Many of her letters to him were themselves almost Essays. Extracts from one or two consecutive letters will show the kind of discussions into which Miss Nightingale loved to involve her Oxford friend, and upon which he was nothing loath to enter:—

(Benjamin Jowett to Miss Nightingale.) Torquay, Sept. 29 [1871].… I must answer your letter by driblets. When you admit that a part of the witness of the character of God is to be sought for in nature, how do you distinguish between the true and false witness of nature? For we cannot deny that physical good is sometimes at variance with moral—e.g. in marriage the sole or chief principle ought to be health and strength in the parents whether with or without a marriage ceremony—in other words Plato's Republic: I mean on physical principles. Or again the laws of physical improvement would require that we should get rid of sickly and deformed infants. And if, as Huxley would say, you reconstruct the world on a physical basis, you have to go to war with received principles of morality. I suppose that the answer is you must take man as a whole, and make morality and the mind the limit of physical improvement. But it is not easy to see what this limit is, because men's conceptions of morality vary, and although we may form ideals we have to descend from them in practice. Therefore I do not agree with you in thinking that there are no difficulties, although the old difficulties, about origin of evil &c., are generally a hocus of Theologians.

(Miss Nightingale to Benjamin Jowett.)[138] Lea Hurst,[224] Oct. 3 [1871]. I am quite scandalized at your materialism. (I shall shut up you and Plato for a hundred years in punishment in another world till you have both obtained clearer views.) Is it for an old maid like me to be preaching to you a Master in Israel that even “on physical principles” there are essential points in marriage (to turn out the best order of children), which, being absent, the perfection of “health and strength” in both parents is of no avail even for the physical part of the children? And might I just ask one small question: whether you consider man has a little soul? If he has ever such a little one, you can scarcely consider him as a simple body, an animal, or even as a twin, the soul being one twin and the body the other, but as all one, the soul and the body making one being (altho' only in this sense). If you do, at all events God does not. And consequently He makes a great many more things enter into the “physical” constitution even of the children than the mere “health and strength” of the parents. (My son, really Plato talked nonsense about this.) Take a much more material thing than the producing of a bad or degenerate family or race. Take a railway accident. What are the laws therein concerned? You have by no means only to consider the “physical” laws—the strength of iron, the speed of steam, the smoothness of rails, the friction &c., &c.—but you have to consider the state of mind of Directors, whether they care only for their dividends, so that the railway-servants are underpaid or overworked &c., &c. You quote Huxley. He is undoubtedly one of the prime educators of the age, but he makes a profound mistake when he says to Mankind: objects of sense are more worthy of your attention than your inferences and imaginations. On the contrary, the finest powers man is gifted with are those which enable him to infer from what he sees what he can't see. They lift him into truth of far higher import than that which he learns from the senses alone. I believe that the laws of nature all tend to improve the whole man, moral and physical, that it is absurd to consider man either as a body to be “improved,” or as a soul to be “improved,” separately.

As to the “laws of physical improvement requiring that we should get rid of sickly and deformed infants,” they require that we should prevent or improve, not that we should kill them. That would be to get rid of some of the finest intellectual and moral specimens of our human nature that have ever existed. And, even were this not the case, the heroism, the patience, the wisdom of our race have been more called forth by dealing[225] with these and the like forms of evil than by almost anything else. The good of man in its highest sense cannot be attained by neglecting one set of laws or one aspect of man's nature and cultivating another.

I entirely therefore agree that “you must take man as a whole.” But this seems at variance with a celebrated author's next sentence “and make morality and the mind the limit of physical improvement.” If I were writing, I should use a word signifying the exact reverse; not limit, but expansion, enlargement, multiplication, master or informing spirit. As Plato says: the mind informs the body, owns the body, the body is the servant of the mind. How can the owner and the master be the limit? We must really pray for your conversion.…

(Benjamin Jowett to Miss Nightingale.) Torquay, Oct. 4.… What have I said to deserve such an outburst? I have no wish to shake the foundation of Society. What I think about these matters is feebly expressed in a part of Essay at the end of the introduction to the Republic. But when I come to a second edition I will express it better.

A comparison of the passage in the first and second editions of Mr. Jowett's Introduction respectively[139] shows how largely he profited by the criticisms in the foregoing letter. His Plato first appeared in 1871, and at once he began revising it. In this work Miss Nightingale gave him great help. Her Greek had now grown a little rusty,[140] but her interest in the substance of Plato was intense. She annotated Mr. Jowett's summaries and introductions very closely, and sent him voluminous suggestions for revision. “You are the best critic,” he wrote, “whom I ever had.” Several of Miss Nightingale's notes are preserved, in rough copy, amongst her Papers, and by means of them her hand may be traced in many a page of Mr. Jowett's revised work. In the first edition of the introduction to the Republic he made some remarks on love as a motive in poetry which excited Miss Nightingale's strong disapproval. She agreed that “the illusion of the feelings commonly called love” was a motive of which too much[226] had been made; but the poets, she thought, had as yet hardly touched the theme of true love—“two in one, and one in God”—as an incentive to heroic action. “The philosopher may be excused,” Mr. Jowett had written, “if he imagines an age when poetry and sentiment have disappeared, and truth has taken the place of imagination, and the feelings of love are understood and estimated at their proper value.” “Take out that mean calumny, my son,” wrote Miss Nightingale; “take it out this minute; blaspheme not against Love.” The offending sentence was expunged in the second edition. Mr. Jowett had gone on to “blaspheme” a little against Art, citing the Mahommedans as a case of the state of the human mind in which “all artistic representations are regarded as a false and imperfect expression either of the religious or of the philosophical ideal.” Miss Nightingale objected that the Mahommedans had renounced the use of pictures and images, but not of architecture: “Mosques are the highest kind of art: the one true representation of the One God: the Glory of God in the highest: the most high of the Most High: higher than any Christian art or architecture—as you would say if you had seen the mosques of Cairo.” Mr. Jowett recast his passage, and used Miss Nightingale's illustration, almost in her words.[141] “I am always stealing from you,” he said. On his Introduction to the Gorgias, she made an interesting criticism:—

Is not Socrates more ineffably tiresome, and at the same time does he not speak higher truth, in the Gorgias than anywhere else? Why call these higher truths “paradoxes”? Are not your sermons always a sort of apology for talking to them of God? And why should your Introductions be a sort of apology for recognizing that Socrates speaks the highest truth and no paradox? Have guarded statements, whether about God or any particular moral or truth, ever produced enthusiasm of religion or in morality? Is there any Dialogue, not even excepting the Phaedo and Crito, where he is so much in earnest? He is so terribly in earnest that towards the end he even throws all his dialectic aside, and makes even Polus in earnest. To me, speaking as one of the stupid and ignorant, it seems that your[227] Introduction dwells too much on the form of the Gorgias and does not bring out in sufficiently striking relief the great truths which Socrates labours so strenuously to enforce that he almost seems to lose himself in them. These great moral truths are (are they not?):—(1) It is a greater evil to do than to suffer injustice. If you call this a “paradox,” why do you not call the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah a paradox? Is it not the highest of truths? (2) It is a greater evil not to be punished than to be punished for wrong. I have no idea why you call this a paradox. It follows from all the higher experience of the life of every one of us. In family life I see it every day. I see the “spoilt child” making himself, and oftener herself, and everyone else miserable, down to mature life or extreme old age. (Tho' the “punishments” of my life have been somewhat severe, yet I can bless God, even in this world, that never in all my life have I been allowed to “do as I liked.”) …

If the reader cares to take this passage to a comparison of the second with the first edition of Mr. Jowett's Introduction,[142] he will discover again how largely, and closely, Miss Nightingale's criticisms were accepted. She dealt similarly—giving precise references for every statement—with the greater part of the Dialogues. “In the Phaedrus,” said Mr. Jowett (July 22, 1873), “I have put in most of what you suggested and made some additions. You are quite right in thinking that I should get as much modern truth into the Introductions as possible. It is a great opportunity; which I have had in view, but not so clearly as since you wrote to me.”

Miss Nightingale continued, as in former years, to send Mr. Jowett suggestions for sermons. “I have written part of your sermon,” he wrote, when she had sent him an outline of what she would like him to preach from the University pulpit. When he became Master of Balliol he projected a Special Form for daily service in the College Chapel, and Miss Nightingale suggested a selection of passages from the Psalms under the heads of “God the Lord,” “God the Judge,” “God the Father,” “God the Friend,” “the Way of the Cross,” and so forth. Mr. Jowett had, however, to abandon the project in deference[228] to superior authority.[143] Another scheme was carried out. In 1873 an edition of the Bible appeared which has a history of some interest. The School and Children's Bible it was called; the name of the Rev. William Rogers, of Bishopsgate, appears on the title-page, but the selection was in fact made for the most part by Mr. Jowett, with the help of some of his friends.[144] That Mr. Swinburne was one of these friends, we know from the poet's own recollections; it is not generally known that the other principal collaborator with Mr. Jowett was Miss Nightingale. Mr. Swinburne's help was in one respect disappointing. “I wanted you,” said Mr. Jowett to him with a smile, “to help me to make this book smaller, and you have persuaded me to make it much larger.” The poet, who was complimented on his thorough familiarity with sundry parts of the sacred text, thought that Mr. Jowett had excluded too much of the prophetic and poetic elements, not taking into account “the delight that a child may take in things beyond the grasp of his perfect comprehension, though not beyond the touch of his apprehensive or prehensile faculty.” Miss Nightingale, whose familiarity with the Bible was probably even closer and more extensive than Mr. Swinburne's and with whom Biblical criticism was a favourite study, also wanted a great deal put in which Mr. Jowett had left out, but her instinct for edification led her to suggest equivalent omissions. She took great pains with her suggestions, illustrating them in letters to Mr. Jowett with many characteristic remarks by the way:—

It is impossible to keep up acquaintance with a man, however otherwise estimable, who separates the 26 last chapters of Isaiah from Isaiah merely by a shabby little note and asterisk. Surely those chapters belong to the end of the Babylonish Captivity[229] and should be separated by a distinct division; while the shabby little note and asterisk might go to some isolated chapters (e.g. xiii., xiv.) among the first 39 which belong to the same time, the end of the Captivity—whereas the first 39 chapters (generally) appear to belong to the “Middle Ages” of Prophecy. But as it may be judged inconvenient to put Chaps. xl.–lxvi. of Isaiah in a different part of the Bible, I will concede that point and simply classify them (I follow Ewald's order). But they must be under a separate Heading with “End of Babylonian Captivity” (or words to that effect) printed distinctly under the heading (not in a note).

More generally, she criticized the first selection sent to her as showing some want of proportion. There was no clear plan, she thought, as to the space to be given, respectively, to:—

(a) Matters of universal importance, moral and spiritual (e.g. the finest parts of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the New Testament); (b) matters of historical importance (e.g. which embrace the history of great nations, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon. The petty wars of the petty tribes seem to take up a quite disproportionate space); (c) matters of local importance, which have acquired a universal moral significance (e.g. Jonah is entirely left out: yet Jonah has a moral and spiritual meaning, while Samson, Balaam and Bathsheba have none); (d) matters of merely local importance, with no significance but an immoral one (e.g. the stories about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, almost all Joshua and Judges, and very much of Samuel and Kings). The story of Achilles and his horses is far more fit for children than that of Balaam and his ass, which is only fit to be told to asses. The stories of Samson and of Jephthah are only fit to be told to bull-dogs; and the story of Bathsheba, to be told to Bathshebas. Yet we give all these stories to children as “Holy Writ.” There are some things in Homer we might better call “Holy” Writ—many, many in Sophocles and Aeschylus. The stories about Andromache and Antigone are worth all the women in the Old Testament put together; nay, almost all the women in the Bible.

“I have just finished the Children's Bible,” wrote Mr. Jowett (Feb. 10, 1872). “I blessed you every time I took the papers up, especially in the Prophets. I have adopted your selection almost entirely, with a slight abridgement, and it is further approved by Mr. Cheyne's authority.”

These various literary enterprises, undertaken at Mr.[230] Jowett's instance, occupied a great deal of Miss Nightingale's time—more time, as she sometimes said to herself, than could rightly be spared from primary duties; and the time was spent, she added in her self-reproaches, to little purpose. In some respects Mr. Jowett's suggestions to her were not very happy. One cannot elaborate in a consecutive form a Scheme of Theology or a Social Philosophy, even through the medium of essays, in odd hours as a bye-work. So Miss Nightingale soon found, and the failure weighed heavily on her spirits; but Mr. Jowett did not realize how great was the strain upon his friend's faculties involved in her nursing work, nor how much time, effort, and emotion she was devoting, though “out of office,” to the complicated problems of Indian administration. We, who have access to her Papers, shall learn the full extent of these preoccupations in later chapters (III. and IV.). But something must first be said of another literary enterprise. To it Miss Nightingale's close study of the Bible and of Plato was entirely relevant. Such studies were, as we shall find in the next chapter, part of the food which sustained her inner life.




Mysticism: to dwell on the unseen, to withdraw ourselves from the things of sense into communion with God—to endeavour to partake of the Divine nature; that is, of Holiness. When we ask ourselves only what is right, or what is the will of God (the same question), then we may truly be said to live in His light.—Florence Nightingale.

It has been mentioned incidentally in an earlier chapter that Miss Nightingale was fond of reading the books of Catholic devotion which the Reverend Mother of the Bermondsey Convent used to send her. Long before, she had studied carefully the writings of the Port Royalists; and at the Trinità de' Monti she had seen the ideal of Catholic devotion in real life. She used to pass on some of her devotional works to Mr. Jowett. He began with St. Teresa, and, at first repelled, he gradually became interested. Miss Nightingale was in the habit of copying out passages for her own edification, sometimes in the original, sometimes translating them. The idea of making a selection for publication occurred to her, and Mr. Jowett encouraged it. “Do not give up your idea,” he said, “of making a selection of the better mind of the Middle Ages and the Mystics.” “You will do a good work,” he wrote again (Oct. 3, 1872), “if you point out the kind of mysticism which is needed in the present day—not mysticism at all, but as intense a feeling, as the mystics had, of the power of truth and reason and of the will of God that they should take effect in the world. The passion of the reason, the fusion of faith and reason, the reason in religion and the religion in reason—if you can only describe these, you will teach people a new lesson. The new has something still[232] to learn from the old; and I am not certain whether we ought not to retire into mysticism (I thought I should not use the word) when the antagonism with existing opinions becomes too great.” Miss Nightingale's close study of Plato and of the Bible, described in the last chapter, increased her interest in Christian mysticism. The Fourth Gospel was the work of a mystic. And there were curious analogies, which she pointed out to Mr. Jowett,[145] between Plato and the mediæval mystics. The famous myth of the purified soul, for instance, recalled a passage in the Fioretti of St. Francis, except that there the purgatorial stage, before the “wings grow,” lasts 150 years, instead of 10,000. Miss Nightingale said of the closing prayer in the Phaedrus—“Give me beauty in the inward soul, and may the outward and inward man be at one”—a prayer unequalled, she thought, by any Collect in the service-book—that it “put in seventeen words the whole, or at least half, of the doctrine of St. John of the Cross.” Plato made her the more interested in the Christian Mystics; the Christian Mystics, the more interested in Plato. Concurrently with her work for Mr. Jowett's revised Plato she gave much time during 1873 and 1874 (with additions in later years) to transcribing or translating and arranging passages from devotional writers of the Middle Ages. She had sent some of her book in various stages to Mr. Jowett, who, with other suggestions, said (April 18, 1873) that she ought to add “a Preface showing the use of such books. They are apt to appear unreal, and yet Thomas à Kempis has been one of the most influential books in the world. The subject of the Preface should be the use of the ideal and especially the spiritual ideal. I do not say what may be the case with great Saints themselves, but for us I think it is clear that this mystic state ought to be an occasional and not a permanent feeling—a taste of heaven in daily life. Do you think it would be possible to write a mystical book which would also be the essence of Common Sense?”



I construct the Preface from various notes and rough drafts in Miss Nightingale's hand:—

It may seem a strange thing to begin a book with:—this Book is not for any one who has time to read it—but the meaning of it is: this reading is good only as a preparation for work. If it is not to inspire life and work, it is bad. Just as the end of food is to enable us to live and work, and not to live and eat, so the end of—most reading perhaps, but certainly of—mystical reading is not to read but to work.

For what is Mysticism? Is it not the attempt to draw near to God, not by rites or ceremonies, but by inward disposition? Is it not merely a hard word for “The Kingdom of Heaven is within”? Heaven is neither a place nor a time. There might be a Heaven not only here but now. It is true that sometimes we must sacrifice not only health of body, but health of mind (or, peace) in the interest of God; that is, we must sacrifice Heaven. But “thou shalt be like God for thou shalt see Him as He is”: this may be here and now, as well as there and then. And it may be for a time—then lost—then recovered—both here and there, both now and then.

That Religion is not devotion, but work and suffering for the love of God; this is the true doctrine of Mystics—as is more particularly set forth in a definition of the 16th century: “True religion is to have no other will but God's.” Compare this with the definition of Religion in Johnson's Dictionary: “Virtue founded upon reverence of God and expectation of future rewards and punishments”; in other words on respect and self-interest, not love. Imagine the religion which inspired the life of Christ “founded” on the motives given by Dr. Johnson!

Christ Himself was the first true Mystic. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.” What is this but putting in fervent and the most striking words the foundation of all real Mystical Religion?—which is that for all our actions, all our words, all our thoughts, the food upon which they are to live and have their being is to be the indwelling Presence of God, the union with God; that is, with the Spirit of Goodness and Wisdom.

Where shall I find God? In myself. That is the true Mystical Doctrine. But then I myself must be in a state for Him to come and dwell in me. This is the whole aim of the Mystical Life; and all Mystical Rules in all times and countries have been laid down for putting the soul into such a state.[234] That the soul herself should be heaven, that our Father which is in heaven should dwell in her, that there is something within us infinitely more estimable than often comes out, that God enlarges this “palace of our soul” by degrees so as to enable her to receive Himself, that thus he gives her liberty but that the soul must give herself up absolutely to Him for Him to do this, the incalculable benefit of this occasional but frequent intercourse with the Perfect: this is the conclusion and sum of the whole matter, put into beautiful language by the Mystics. And of this process they describe the steps, and assign periods of months and years during which the steps, they say, are commonly made by those who make them at all.

These old Mystics whom we call superstitious were far before us in their ideas of God and of prayer (that is of our communion with God). “Prayer,” says a mystic of the 16th century, “is to ask not what we wish of God, but what God wishes of us.” “Master who hast made and formed the vessel of the body of Thy creature, and hast put within so great a treasure, the Soul, which bears the image of Thee”: so begins a dying prayer of the 14th century. In it and in the other prayers of the Mystics there is scarcely a petition. There is never a word of the theory that God's dealings with us are to show His “power”; still less of the theory that “of His own good pleasure” He has “predestined” any souls to eternal damnation. There is little mention of heaven for self; of desire of happiness for self, none. It is singular how little mention there is either of “intercession” or of “Atonement by Another's merits.” True it is that we can only create a heaven for ourselves and others “by the merits of Another,” since it is only by working in accordance with God's Laws that we can do anything. But there is nothing at all in these prayers as if God's anger had to be bought off, as if He had to be bribed into giving us heaven by sufferings merely “to satisfy God's justice.” In the dying prayers, there is nothing of the “egotism of death.” It is the reformation of God's church—that is, God's children, for whom the self would give itself, that occupies the dying thoughts. There is not often a desire to be released from trouble and suffering. On the contrary, there is often a desire to suffer the greatest suffering, and to offer the greatest offering, with even greater pain, if so any work can be done. And still, this, and all, is ascribed to God's goodness. The offering is not to buy anything by suffering, but—If only the suppliant can do anything for God's children!

These suppliants did not live to see the “reformation” of God's children. No more will any who now offer these prayers. But at least we can all work towards such practical “reformation.”[235] The way to live with God is to live with Ideas—not merely to think about ideals, but to do and suffer for them. Those who have to work on men and women must above all things have their Spiritual Ideal, their purpose, ever present. The “mystical” state is the essence of common sense.

The authors whom Miss Nightingale read for the purpose of her selection included St. Angela of Foligno, Madame de Chatel, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, St. John of the Cross, Peter of Alcantara, Father Rigoleuc, St. Teresa, and Father Surin. She arranged her extracts from these and other writers under headings, and supplied marginal summaries. She prepared also a title-page:—Notes from Devotional Authors of the Middle Ages, Collected, Chosen, and Freely Translated by Florence Nightingale.


This and all other literary work was interrupted, however, at the beginning of 1874 by the death of her father. She was in London; her sister and Sir Harry Verney were with him and Mrs. Nightingale at Embley. He was 80; but, though his strength of body and mind had failed a little, he had been out for his usual ride a few days before. Lady Verney had wished him good-night. “Say not good-night,” he said in reply, quoting Mrs. Barbauld, “but in some brighter clime Bid me good-morning.” A day or two later, he came down to breakfast as usual, but found that he had forgotten his watch. He went to fetch it, slipped upon the stairs, and died on the spot. Miss Nightingale felt the loss of her father deeply. “His reverent love for you,” wrote Lord Houghton in a letter of condolence (Jan. 13, 1874), “was inexpressibly touching,” and her love for him, though of a different kind, was very tender. Unlike in many respects, father and daughter were yet kindred spirits in intellectual curiosity, in a taste for speculative inquiry. M. Mohl noted among Mr. Nightingale's engaging characteristics “a modest curiosity about everything, a surprised, innocent, incredulous smile as he listened intently.” Miss Irby spoke of his “exceeding sweetness and childlikeness of wisdom.” These qualities were conspicuous[236] in much of his intercourse with his daughter Florence, and she was now deprived of the father who had, in things of the mind, sat at her feet and sympathized in her searches after truth. The death of her father was quickly followed, on January 31, 1874, by that of her dearly loved friend, Mrs. Bracebridge. “She was more than mother to me,” wrote Florence to M. and Madame Mohl (Feb. 3); “and oh that I could not be a daughter to her in her last sad days! What should I have been without her? and what would many have been without her? To one living with her as I did once, she was unlike any other human being: as unlike as a picture of a sunny scene is to the real light and warmth of sunshine: or as this February lamp we call our sun is to her own Sun of living light in Greece.… Other people live together to make each other worse: she lived with all to make them better. And she was not like a chastened Christian saint: no more like that than Apollo; but she had qualities which no Greek God ever had—real humility (excepting my dear Father, I never knew any one so really humble), and with it the most active heart and mind and buoyant soul that could well be conceived.” Mr. Bracebridge had died eighteen months before (July 18, 1872), and Miss Nightingale had said: “He and she have been the creators of my life. And when I think of him at Scutari, the only man in all England who would have lived with willingness such a pigging life, without the interest and responsibility which it had to me, I think that we shall never look upon his like again. And when I think of Atherstone, of Athens, of all the places I have been in with them, of the immense influence they had in shaping my own life—more than earthly father and mother to me—I cannot doubt that they leave behind them, having shaped many lives as they did mine, their mark on the century—this century which has so little ideal at least in England. They were so immeasurably above any English ‘country gentry’ I have ever known.” Miss Nightingale's estimate of her friends was shared by others who had enjoyed their hospitality. “The death of Mrs. Bracebridge,” wrote M. Mohl (Feb. 14), “is a sad blow for you. The breaking of these old associations which nothing new can replace impoverishes one's[237] life, and a part of ourselves dies out with old friends even if they have not been to us what Mrs. Bracebridge was to you. Und immer stiller wird's und stiller auf unserm Pfad until the great problem of life opens for ourselves. Two better people than the Bracebridges, different as they were, I have never seen. Madame d'Abbadie has a queer expression for a woman she approves of; she says elle est honnête homme, and nothing is more appropriate to Mrs. Bracebridge. I can never think of Atherstone without emotion; it is people like these in whom lies the glory of England and the strength of the country. They were so genuine, so ready to help and to impoverish themselves for public purposes, and to do it unostentatiously and without fishing for popularity.” To the end of her life Miss Nightingale cherished the memory of these faithful and helpful friends. “To my beloved and revered friends,” she said in her Will, “Mr. Charles Bracebridge and his wife, my more than mother, without whom Scutari and my life could not have been, and to whom nothing that I could ever say or do would in the least express my thankfulness, I should have left some token of my remembrance had they, as I expected, survived me.” The death of her companion at Scutari removed one of the few links with Miss Nightingale's happier past. The death of her father was not only a bereavement which she felt deeply; it also involved her in much distracting business. Her father's landed properties, at Embley and Lea Hurst, now passed, under the entail, to his sister, “Aunt Mai,” and her husband. Florence did not attend her father's funeral, but soon she went down to Embley to look after her mother. There, and afterwards in London, she was immersed in worrying affairs. Her only comfort, she wrote repeatedly in private notes, was the “goodness” of Mr. Shore Smith—“her boy” of old days. The letters of Mr. Coltman, one of her father's executors, were full of humour, but Florence was never able to take things lightly. There were questions of property and residence to be discussed; servants to be dismissed and engaged; her mother's immediate movements and future mode of life to be settled. Everybody had a different plan, and Florence complained that nobody but she had the same plan for two days running.[238] Her letters and notes at this period are of a quite tragic intensity. Something may be ascribed to a characteristic over-emphasis. “We Smiths,” she said once of herself, “all exaggerate”; and Mr. Jowett said of some remarks made by her about him: “You are as nearly right as an habitual spirit of exaggeration will ever allow you to be.” “We are a great many too many strong characters,” she wrote of herself and her family, “and very different: all pulling different ways. And we are so dreadfully au sérieux. Oh, how much good it does us to have some one to laugh at us!”

But there was no exaggeration in one of her woes. A third of her time was taken up with the Nightingale Nurses; another third with Indian affairs (for in relation to India, as we shall hear, she never quite “went out of office”); the remaining third, which might have been devoted to working out a scheme of social and moral science on the statistical methods of M. Quetelet, or on preparing for the press her selections from the Mystics, was being wasted in family worries. M. Quetelet, with whom she had been corresponding, had recently died. “I cannot say,” she wrote to Dr. Farr (Feb. 23, 1874), “how the death of our old friend touches me: he was the founder of the most important science in the whole world. Some months ago I prepared the first sketch of an Essay I meant to publish and dedicate to him on the application of his discoveries to explain the Plan of God in teaching us by these results the laws by which our Moral Progress is to be attained. I had pleased myself with thinking that this would please him. But painful and indispensable business prevented the finishing of my paper.” “O God,” she exclaimed in the bitterness of her heart, “let me not sink in these perplexities: but give me a great cause to do and die for.” And again: “What makes the difference between man and woman? Quetelet did his work, and I am so disturbed by my family that I can't do mine.”



So, then, Miss Nightingale never finished her book on the Mystics; but she did something which, if we take her view of literary work, we may account far better; she lived it. No words of Florence Nightingale's that have been quoted in the course of this Memoir are more intensely autobiographical, none express more truly the spirit in which she lived and moved and had her being, than those which I have put together on a preceding page from her Notes on the Mystics. Her creed may seem cold to some minds, but she invested it with a spiritual fervour which none of the Mystics has surpassed. This woman, so practical, so business-like, and in her outward dealings with men and affairs so worldly-wise, was a dreamer, a devotee, a religious enthusiast. The Lady-in-Chief, who was to others a tower of strength, was to herself a weak vessel, praying continually for support, and conscious, with bitter intensity, of short-coming, of faithlessness, of rebellion to the will of God. Self-possessed in the presence of others, she was tortured and agonized, often to the verge of despair, in the solitude of her chamber. “I have done nothing for seven years,” she said to a friend, “but write regulations.” And that was broadly true of one side of her life. Of another side, she might have said with almost equal truth, “I have done nothing all my life but write spiritual meditations.” She lived with a pen or pencil ever at her side; and reams of her paper are covered with confessions, self-examinations, communings with God. She suffered much, and especially during these years, from sleeplessness, and in the watches of the night she would turn to read the Mystics for comfort, or to write on her tablets for spiritual exercise. Though she liked best the books of the Catholic saints, her Catholicism was wider than theirs, and she could find spiritual kinship also, as in the lines prefixed to the present Part, with the hymns of American evangelists. At one and the same time mystic and practical administrator, Miss Nightingale had two soul-sides; but each was a reflection of the other. Her religion was her work; and her work was her religion.[240] She read the Mystics, not to lull her active faculties into contemplative ecstasy, but to consecrate them to more perfect service. In one place she makes these notes from St. Catherine of Siena:—“It is not the occupation but the spirit which makes the difference. The election of a bishop may be a most secular thing. The election of a representative may be a religious thing. It is not the preluding such an election with public prayer that would make it a religious act. It is religious so far as each man discharges his part as a duty and a solemn responsibility. The question is not whether a thing is done for the State or the Church, but whether it is done with God or without God.” Miss Nightingale's heading to this passage was “Drains.” She applied her religion to every aspect of her life; and in her meditations, passages of solemn profundity are sometimes side by side with entries of a quaint, and almost humorous, directness, like a gargoyle above a church porch or a dog in a Madonna picture. “O Lord I offer him to Thee. He is so heavy. Do Thou take care of him. I can't.” “I must strive to see only God in my friends, and God in my cats.” Such passages are thought “profane” by professors of a purely formal religion; but are characteristic of the true mystics in all denominations.

The mystical self-abasement of the Saints was never more complete than in the private meditations of Florence Nightingale. Once in the middle of the night she started up and saw pictures on the wall by the night-light lamp. “Am I she who once stood on that Crimean height? ‘The Lady with a Lamp shall stand.’ The lamp shows me only my utter shipwreck.” From the year 1872 onwards, when she went “out of office,” and with increased intensity after her father's death, Miss Nightingale's mood, in all communings with herself, was of deep dejection and of utter humbleness. The notes are often heart-rending in their impression of loneliness, of craving for sympathy which she could not find, of bitter self-reproach. The loss of friends may account for something of all this, and even her friendship with Mr. Jowett had now lost somewhat of its consoling power. She felt that she gave more sympathy than she[241] received; she sometimes found her interviews with him exhausting or disturbing; “he talks to me,” she said once, “as if I were some one else.” The strange manner of her life should be remembered. Her habit of seeing only one person at a time, and that at set times, must have made intercourse rather formidable for both parties. Nobody, even if staying in the house, ever happened to come into her room, and no outside visitor appeared unexpectedly. She never had the relief of hearing two other people talk, or of witnessing, even for a moment, two other personalities in contact. Something too must be accounted to the fact that many of her meditations were written at night or in the early morning hours when she could not sleep. Periods of sleepless dejection, which in the lives of most men and women leave little record of themselves behind, were by her spent in writing down their weary tale. No doubt, the self-expression gave relief; and she would often turn at the instant from her tablets of despair to amuse a visitor with humorous conversation, or write a vivacious letter to a friend.

These are considerations for which allowance must be made in estimating what was morbid in Miss Nightingale's moods. But for the most part the despondency and the self-abasement which coloured her meditations, and which sometimes appear in her letters, were the expression of the mystical way of her soul. They are the utterance of a soul which was striving after perfection, and found the path difficult and thorny. Miss Nightingale was masterful and eager; she had often been able to impress her will upon men and upon events; she found it difficult to bear disappointments and vexations with that entire resignation which the mystics taught her. She was “out of office”; she had been interrupted, suddenly and painfully, in a long career of almost unceasing action. The pause in her public life gave her new occasion for self-criticism and fresh consciousness of the difficulty of sustaining in active life that absolute purity of motive which makes light even of success or failure. She strove to attain, and she taught others to ensue, passivity in action—to do the utmost in their power, but to leave the result to a Higher Power. In a poem[242] which gave her much comfort in later years she marked this passage:—

Abstaining from attachment to the work,
Abstaining from rewardment in the work,
While yet one doeth it full faithfully,
Saying, “'Tis right to do!”—that is true act
And abstinence! Who doeth duties so,
Unvexed if his work fail, if it succeed
Unflattered, in his own heart justified,
Quit of debates and doubts, his is “true” act.[146]

But the lesson was hard to learn. “There are trying days before us,” she wrote to one of her dearest friends (Aug. 1873); “however, we cannot change a single ‘hair’; we must look to Him ‘Alike who grasps eternity, And numbers every hair.’ I don't know that it is ever difficult to me to entrust my ‘hair’ to Him, but to entrust A.'s, and yours, and poor matron's I find very difficult. And I thought He did not take care of B.'s hairs. What a reprobate I am!” And a worse “reprobate” than this letter says; for in fact she did find it very difficult to entrust even her own “hair to Him”—as she confessed in another letter to the same friend: “God is displeased when we enquire too anxiously. A soul which has really given itself to God does His will in the present, and trusts to the Father for the future. Now it is twenty years to-day [Aug. 11, 1873] since I entered ‘public life’—and I have not learnt that lesson yet—though the greater part of those twenty years have been as completely out of my hands to mould, and in His alone, as if they had been the movements of the planets.” The surrender of her will to the keeping of the Supreme Will was the spiritual perfection at which she most continuously aimed. In consciousness of failure, she reproached herself for censoriousness, rebellion, impatience. She knew that some of all this, and much of her dejection, were morbid, and warned others against the like weakness. “Do not depend, darling,” she wrote to a friend, “upon ‘light’ in one sort of mystical way. There are things, as I know by experience, in which He sends us light by the hard good[243] sense of others, not by our going over in sickness and solitude one thought, or rather feeling, over and over again by ourselves, which rather brings darkness. I have felt this so much in my lonely life.” But there was another mystical way in which she found strength. In her spiritual life, which was at once the complement and the sustaining source of her outward life, she followed, as she was fond of writing, “the Way of the Cross.” There were moments indeed, but they were rare, in which she was inclined to draw back, and when her faith grew faint. “O my Creator, art Thou leading every man of us to perfection? Or is this only a metaphysical idea for which there is no evidence? Is man only a constant repetition of himself? Thou knowest that through all these 20 horrible years [1873] I have been supported by the belief (I think I must believe it still or I am sure I could not work) that I was working with Thee who wert bringing every one, even our poor nurses, to perfection.” Yet from every doubt her assurance grew the stronger; and as she followed the Way of the Cross, she rose triumphant over suffering, finding in each loss of human sympathy a lesson that she should throw herself more entirely into the Eternal Arms, and in every outbreak of human despondency or rebellion a call to closer union with the Eternal Goodness. “O Father, I submit, I resign myself,” she wrote in one of hundreds of similar meditations, “I accept with all my heart this stretching out of Thy hand to save me: Deal with me as Thou seest meet: Thy work begin, Thy work complete. O how vain it is, the vanity of vanities, to live in men's thoughts, instead of God's.” And again: “Wretch that I was not to see that God was taking from me all human help in order to compel me to lean on Him alone.” She had little interest in rites and ceremonies as such, and she interpreted the doctrines of Christianity in her own way; but she found great comfort in the Communion Service, as an expression of the individual believer's participation in the sufferings and the triumph of the greatest of the Mystics. For some years she entered in her diary a text from the mystical writers for each day. She took to herself their devotion, their communion with God, their self-surrender; she adjusted their doctrine to her own beliefs. “I believe,”[244] she wrote, “in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And in Jesus Christ, His best son, our Master, who was born to show us the way through suffering to be also His sons and His daughters, His handmen and His handmaidens, who lived in the same spirit with the Father, that we may also live in that Holy Spirit whose meat was to do His Father's will and to finish His work, who suffered and died saying, ‘That the world may love the Father.’ And I believe in the Father Almighty's love and friendship, in the service of man being the service of God, the growing into a likeness with Him by love, the being one with Him in will at last, which is Heaven. I believe in the plan of Almighty Perfection to make us all perfect. And thus I believe in the Life Everlasting.”

This was the creed by which Miss Nightingale guided her life; this, the path to perfection along which she ever moved. There was nothing ecstatic in her mysticism, though she notes occasionally that she heard “The voice,” and often that she was conscious of receiving “strong impressions.” They were impressions which came in moments of imaginative insight, but yet which followed rationally from self-examination and meditation on her creed. Patience and resignation were the states of the purified soul which she found hardest of attainment. She marked for her edification many a passage from devotional writers in which such virtues are enjoined; as in this from Thomas à Kempis: “Oh Lord my God, patience is very necessary for me, for I perceive that many things in this life do fall out as we would not.… It is so, my son. But my will is that thou seek not that peace which is void of temptations, or which suffereth nothing contrary; but rather think that thou hast found peace, when thou art exercised with sundry tribulations and tried in many adversities.” Her tribulations were often caused, she confessed, by her impatience. “O Lord, even now I am trying to snatch the management of Thy world out of Thy hands.” The middle path of perfection between the acquiescence of the quietist and the impatience of the worker was hard. “Too little have I looked for something higher and better than my own work—the work of Supreme Wisdom, which[245] uses us whether we know it or not. O God to Thy glory not to mine whatever happens, may be all my thought!”

Miss Nightingale's meditations, written in the purgatorial stage, are many and poignant. But there were times also when the mount of illumination was reached, when “the palace of her soul” was enlarged to receive the indwelling Presence, and she found the perfect peace of the mystic in the consciousness of union with the Supreme Wisdom; times when on the wings of the soul she attained with Dante to the empyrean:—

Lume è lassù che visibile face
Lo Creatore a quella creatura,
Che solo in lui vedere ha la sua pace.

Perfected in weakness, she was strong in moments of illumination “to see God in all things, and all things in God, the Eternal shining through the accidents of space and time.” [147]




Let each Founder train as many in his or her spirit as he or she can. Then the pupils will in their turn be Founders also.—Florence Nightingale.

Miss Nightingale did not do as she had planned, and go in her own person to St. Thomas's Hospital, but in another sense the year 1872 was the year of her descent upon it. Not, indeed, as we saw in the preceding Part, that she had ever abandoned a personal interest in the Training School, but there were now new conditions which called for additional care, and Miss Nightingale, being out of office, was more free to give it. Henceforth she became, in a yet more direct manner than heretofore, the head of the Nightingale School, and the Chief of the Nightingale Nurses.

The year 1871 had seen the removal of St. Thomas's Hospital from its temporary quarters in the old Surrey Gardens to the present building opposite the Houses of Parliament. The foundation-stone had been laid by Queen Victoria in 1868. Miss Nightingale had been requested to ask the Queen to do this, and she had preferred the petition through Sir James Clark. “I never pressed Her Majesty so hard upon anything before,” said he, in announcing the Royal pleasure. The Queen had again shown her interest in the Hospital by opening the new building in June 1871. The number of beds was now greatly increased, and with it the number of nurses and probationers. The control of the nurses was likely to be relaxed as it was spread over a larger number, and Miss Nightingale resolved to hold a Visitation.

First, she sent Dr. Sutherland with the consent of the[247] hospital authorities to inspect the new buildings and to consider all the arrangements from the point of view of an expert sanitarian. She examined and cross-examined Sisters and Nurses on the same points, and put into print a list of the defects which needed remedy.[148] Then Miss Nightingale took in hand the education, technical and moral, of her own Nightingale School. She had already observed that the Lady Probationers, appointed to responsible posts, were not always adequate to their duties: the overworked Matron had perhaps sometimes recommended unsuitable persons. She found on questioning the Nurses that their technical education did not reach the high standard which she desired to maintain. She feared that the moral standard similarly fell short of her ideal; nursing was coming to be regarded too much as a business profession, and too little as a sacred calling. Miss Nightingale determined to throw herself into a sustained effort for the better realization of her ideal. Directly or indirectly, she instituted sweeping reforms. The result of them was, as she wrote to Mr. Bonham Carter (Aug. 1875), that the Training School became “a Home—a place of moral, religious and practical training—a place of training of character, habits, intelligence, as well as of acquiring knowledge.” Those who saw the Nightingale nurses in these years were struck by the bright, kindly and pleasant spirit which seemed to pervade the company of them, and could well understand that the Institution was really, as its foundress intended, a home as well as a school.

Mr. Whitfield, the Resident Medical Officer, who had acted since the foundation of the Nursing School as Medical Instructor of the Probationers, resigned that post, and Mr. J. Croft, who had lately become one of the Surgeons to the Hospital, was appointed in his stead. Miss Nightingale saw and corresponded with Mr. Croft, and liked him much. “I have always dreaded,” he wrote (Feb. 24, 1873), “remaining a ‘stagnant man.’[149] I hope to become, as you[248] would have me, an active and faithful comrade.” He gave clinical instruction to the Probationers; delivered courses of lectures—general, medical, and surgical in the several terms—throughout the year, of which he submitted the syllabus to Miss Nightingale, and at her request drew up a “Course of Reading for Probationers.” Other members of the Medical Staff gave courses of lectures also, and examinations were made more regular and searching. The answers written by the Probationers, and their notes on the lectures, were from time to time sent in to Miss Nightingale, so that she might gain an idea of the general standard of instruction, and perhaps administer rebuke or encouragement to individual pupils. “I think,” Miss Nightingale was told on one occasion, “that the ladies are thoroughly ashamed of the appearance they made at Mr. Croft's last examination, and wish to retrieve themselves.” Their good resolutions seem to have been successful, for presently one of the Medical Officers reported that “the answers which I have received this year collectively are much better than in former years, they are indeed exceedingly good.” “I read your Case-papers,” Miss Nightingale wrote in one of her Addresses, “with more interest than if they were novels. Some are meagre, especially in the history of the cases. Some are good. Please remember that, besides your own instruction, you can give me some too, by making these most interesting cases as interesting as possible by making them accurate and entering into the full history.” The new Hospital had greatly increased the demands upon the time of the Matron, Mrs. Wardroper, and left her less able to supervise the Probationers. An Assistant-Superintendent of the School was appointed with the title of Home Sister.[150] It was one of her duties to supplement the lectures and bedside demonstration of the medical officers by regular class-teaching.

Miss Nightingale, however, attached even more importance[249] to the Home Sister's influence on the moral and spiritual side of the School. The Home Sister was to encourage general reading, to arrange Bible classes, to give interests to the nurses in order “to keep them above the mere scramble for a remunerative place.” The two sides of the School are closely joined in the letters to Miss Nightingale from the Home Sister and Matron—letters telling on one page of the progress of Probationers in antiseptic dressing and so forth, and on another of their Bible readings or selected hymns. Miss Nightingale was especially pleased when Canon Farrar allotted some seats at St. Margaret's to her nurses and took a Confirmation class among them.


Miss Nightingale relied, however, upon her own influence also. During her residence in London she now made a point of seeing regularly all the Sisters, Nurses, and Probationers attached to her School. She had resolved, when Agnes Jones died, to “give herself up to finding more Agnes Joneses.” This was the task to which she now devoted a large part of her life. She was still untiring in the attempt to procure promising raw material. She applied to Mr. Spurgeon, among others, who in reply (July 29, 1877) hoped that from his church “there would come quite a little army of recruits for your holy war. Rest assured that to me in common with all my countrymen your name is very fragrant.” When applications came to her for trained nurses from provincial towns, she used to tell them what Pastor Fliedner said when similar applications came to him for trained Deaconesses from Kaiserswerth: “Have you sent me any Probationers? I can't stamp material out of the ground.” From 1872 onwards all the “raw material” passed under Miss Nightingale's own eye.

She was a shrewd judge of character. A collection of extracts from Mr. Jowett's notes to her about his pupils, and of her pencilled notes upon her pupils, would furnish a gallery of types of young English men and English women. He used to write to her very freely about his undergraduates;[250] and she liked it—teasing him sometimes about his dukes and marquises and inventing humorous nicknames for them. “Why do I write to you,” he said, “about all these young men? Because it pleases me, and because I know that you are a student of human nature.” She was indeed. She read her visitors through and through. As soon as a Sister or a Nurse took leave, Miss Nightingale wrote down a memorandum of the attainments, knowledge, and character of each. The character-sketches are terse and vivid, expressed sometimes in racy English. “Miss A.[151] Tittupy, flippant, pretension-y, veil down, ambitious, clever, not much feeling, talk-y, underbred, no religion, may be persevering from ambition to excel, but takes the thing up as an adventure like Nap. III.” “Nurse B. A good little thing, spirited, too much friends with G., shares in her flirtations.” “Miss C. Seems a woman of good feeling and bad sense; much under the meridian of anybody who will try to persuade her. I think her praises have been sung exaggerated-ly. She wants a very steady hand over her. Such long-winded stories 5 points or at least half the compass off the subject in hand. Had I not been intent on persuading her I should have been out of all patience.” “Miss D. As self-comfortable a jackass (or Joan-ass) as ever I saw.” “Nurse E. A most capable little woman, no education, but one can't find it in one's heart to regret it, she seems as good as can be.” “Miss X. More cleverness than judgment, more activity than order, more hard sense than feeling, never any high view of her calling, always thinking more of appearances than of the truth, more flippant than witty, more petulance than vigour.” “Nurse Y. As poor a two-fisted thing as ever I saw, a mawkin to frighten away good nurses.” There were many Sisters and Nurses so excellent in every respect that they needed nothing but encouragement; she was more careful to mark defects, and sometimes she would write a note of warning or remonstrance immediately after an interview, as to Miss Z.: “A wise man says that true knowledge of anything whether in heaven or earth can only be gained by a true love of the Ideal in it—that is, of the best that we can do in it. Forgive[251] me, dear Miss Z., do you think that you have the true love of the best in nursing? This is a question I ask myself daily in all I do. Do not think me governess-ing. It is a question which each one of us can only ask of, and answer to, herself.” The notes which Miss Nightingale took of conversations with Probationers did not refer only to those ladies themselves. She questioned them closely of the state of the wards, the kind and extent of instruction they received, and the influence exerted by the several Sisters. She came to the conclusion that the Probationers were not always adequately taught by the Sisters, and she drew up accordingly a “Memorandum of Instruction to Ward Sisters on their duties to Probationers.” In one of her cross-examinations of herself, she wrote, “God meant me for a reformer and I have turned out a detective.” But the reformer must needs on occasion play the detective—especially if she cannot herself be on the scene. The close hand which Miss Nightingale kept upon her School during these years from her room in South Street or at Lea Hurst is extraordinary, but it was done at a prodigious expenditure of labour. She notes the point herself: it was one of the sore trials of her lot that she had to “write 100 letters to do one little thing instead of being able to do it directly.” “It takes a great deal out of me,” she wrote to a friend. “I have never been used to influence people except by leading in work; and to have to influence them by talking and writing is hard. A more dreadful thing than being cut short by death is being cut short by life in a paralysed state.”

Miss Nightingale's sense of the seriousness of the nurse's vocation by no means stifled her appreciation of fun. Each nurse had to write once a month a report, for submission to the Chief, of a day's work in the wards. “I well remember,” says one of her pupils, “coming off duty one evening at 8 P.M. fagged, footsore, and weary. On entering the Home, the Sister informed me that my report must be written immediately (we never knew beforehand on which day this sword of Damocles would fall upon us). So after a hurried supper, I commenced jotting down the day's work. One of the rules was that everything we had done in the wards must be entered. A combination of truthfulness and temper[252] resulted in the following paragraph:—‘8.15 A.M. Tooth-combed seven heads, had grand sport; mixed bag, measured one teaspoonful; cleanliness is next to godliness!’ Miss Nightingale, when she came to know me, had a hearty laugh at this cheeky probationer's description of sport in Hospital coverts.” The cheekiness by no means prejudiced Miss Nightingale against the pupil, who, a few years afterwards, was selected for a very responsible post.[152] To be invited to tea and talk with the Chief was regarded as a great honour by her pupils, but, as young people will, they sometimes made fun of it among themselves. “Carefully dressed in my best garments I was just starting on my first visit to South Street when one of the nurses rushed up to me exclaiming, ‘Miss Nightingale always gives a cake to the probationer who has tea with her, and the size of the cake varies according to the poverty or otherwise of the nurse's dress.’ So I hurried upstairs, exchanged my best coat for one that had done country service for many years and came home from my tea-party the proud possessor of a cake so large that it went the round of all the thirty-six probationers.” This story also was told presently to Miss Nightingale, who enjoyed it hugely. She herself often wrote in a playful vein; as in this note to a pupil who was not taking due care of herself: “Ah, what a villain you are! I knowed yer! If any one else were to do as you do in nursing yourself, you would discharge her from the face of the earth. And see the results! Then, I'll be bound you've eaten none of those victuals yourself.”


The dossiers which Miss Nightingale preserved and, annotated (often picking out special points by black, blue, and red pencil respectively) were of use to her in the important work of selecting particular ladies for particular posts. The most notable appointment during these years was that of a Lady Superintendent to organize District Nursing in London. We have heard already that Miss Nightingale regarded this development as the proper sequel to the reform of workhouse nursing. That was in 1866,[253] and now she reproached herself: “I had then resolved to give myself to promoting District Nursing, and now that District Nursing comes it is too late for me to help.” This lament, however, was unnecessary. It was Miss Nightingale's published Suggestions[153] upon which the promoters of the movement acted. Foremost among them was Mr. Rathbone, who was moved to extend to London the experiment which he had carried out successfully in Liverpool.[154] He at once came to consult Miss Nightingale. It was her letter to the Times, too, reprinted as a pamphlet,[155] that made the “Metropolitan Nursing Association” well known to the public. In this letter, as in all her writings on the same subject, Miss Nightingale insisted that nothing second best would be good enough for nursing among the sick poor, that such nurses must be health missionaries, and that to obtain suitable women for the service there must be “a real home, within reach of their work, for the nurses to live in.” The system thus inaugurated in London was, she said, “twenty years ago a paradox, but twenty years hence will be a commonplace.” But the chief of the direct services which Miss Nightingale rendered to the movement was in persuading one of the ablest of her pupils—Miss Florence Lees (Mrs. Dacre Craven)—to accept the position of Superintendent-General. She filled the post with high efficiency for some years, and throughout her work was in constant consultation with Miss Nightingale.

In April 1878 it looked as if Miss Nightingale would have to find Superintendents and Nurses for another purpose. War with Russia was believed to be imminent; two Army Corps were being prepared for immediate embarkation; and Sir William Muir, Director-General of the Army Medical Department, came to a consultation in South Street upon the female nursing establishment to be dispatched to the (unknown) seat of war. Miss Nightingale spent some anxious days and sleepless nights in considering which of her pupils were best fitted and could best be spared for this special service, but the war-cloud passed away.

The appointment of Miss Lees to organize District[254] Nursing in London was only one, though it was the most important, of many responsible appointments, over which Miss Nightingale took infinite pains in order to place the right person in the right place. Hospitals and workhouse Infirmaries in London and in various parts of the country looked to the Nightingale School for superintendents; or sometimes if an important post were thrown open by advertisement, Miss Nightingale used her influence to secure the election of a Nightingale candidate. Here, again, her labour was the greater because she was not herself on the spot and had others to consult. There was a Triumvirate, she used to say; the Triumvirs being Mr. Henry Bonham Carter (the Secretary of the Nightingale Fund), Mrs. Wardroper (the Matron) and Miss Nightingale (here, as in the Crimea, the Lady-in-Chief)—with Dr. Sutherland, sometimes, in the background as a court of ultimate appeal. Whenever an important post fell vacant, the amount of cross-correspondence was prodigious. As soon as a lady was selected by the triumvirate for promotion, Miss Nightingale would call the chosen pupil more closely to her, make her intimate acquaintance and prepare her for the work. Then there was the difficult duty of effecting exchanges. The Sisters when they had once left St. Thomas's were, after all, free agents; and though the deference which they all paid to Miss Nightingale's wishes was great, yet the ladies had ambitions, preferences, views of their own, and her influence had often to be exercised by humouring, petting, coaxing:—

(To Miss Rachel Williams.) 35 South Street, Jan. 17 [1874].… We thought that this arrangement was what would approve itself best to your best judgment. But as I am well aware that my dear Goddess-baby has—well, a baby-side, I shall not be surprised at any outburst—though I know full well that in the dear Pearl's terrible distress, you will do everything and more than everything possible to drag her through and to spare her and to keep her up and the place going. Only don't break yourself down, my dear child.… Alas, I would so fain relieve you of your “bitterness.” You say you are “bitter”; and indeed you are.… I would not have written thus much, unless urged by seeing my Goddess-baby suffering from delusions. And how can a woman be a Superintendent unless she has learnt to superintend herself?

(To the same.) May 2 [1874]. I have this moment received[255] your charming letter, which is just like yourself. And I must write and thank you for it at once. It has taken a load off my heart. It is a pure joy to me: because I see yourself (and not another) in it. And life has not many joys for me, my darling.

(To the same.) Dec. 5 [1874]. After much consideration my suggestion was that you should remain another six months in the same position, not because I had any idea of your remaining indefinitely on and on as you are, but because Edinburgh serves as a capital and indispensable preparation. But this is only an old woman's advice: which probably the Goddess will not much regard and which is subject any way, of course, to hearing your own wishes, ideas and reasons for one course or another.… If there is such violent haste, telegraph to me any day and come up by the next express or on the wires. And I will turn out India, my Mother, and all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men together, with one-sixth of the human race, and lay my energies (not many left) at the Goddess' feet.

Miss Nightingale had a large heart and an unprejudiced mind; she was open to discern character and efficiency in many different forms; but naturally there were those, among her pupils, by whom she was more particularly attracted. The letters just quoted introduce us to two of these. Of one of them Miss Nightingale noted in her diary, after the first interview: “Miss P. came. I have found a pearl of great price.” The name was adopted, and she became in familiar correspondence “The Pearl.” She filled important posts, and became one of Miss Nightingale's dearest friends. Of the other Probationer, she wrote: “Besides the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Miss Williams it was quite a pleasure to my bodily eyes to look at her. She is like a queen; and all her postures are so beautiful, without being in the least theatrical.” This lady was “the Goddess” of the letters already quoted. She was for many years Matron of St. Mary's Hospital in London, with a Training School under her, and she was afterwards appointed Lady Superintendent of Nurses during the Egyptian campaign of 1884–85. Even her marriage shortly afterwards did not break her friendship with Miss Nightingale. Sometimes a pupil on leaving St. Thomas's would take a situation against Miss Nightingale's advice or without consulting her. “I should feel happier,”[256] wrote one pupil, “if you saw the matter in the same light as I do.” I expect that in such a case the self-willed pupil had to do very well in her post in order to win Miss Nightingale's approval. There were few important posts in the nursing world which were not filled during these and the following years by pupils of the Nightingale School. An appointment which gave special satisfaction to Miss Nightingale and her Council was that of Miss Machin to be Matron of St. Bartholomew's (1878).[156] At one and the same time (1882), former Nightingale Probationers held the post of Matron or of Superintendent of Nurses in the following among other institutions:—Cumberland Infirmary (Carlisle), Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Huntingdon County Hospital, Leeds Infirmary, Lincoln County Hospital; at Liverpool, in the Royal Infirmary, the Southern Hospital, and the Workhouse Infirmary; Netley, Royal Victoria Hospital; Putney, Royal Hospital for Incurables; Salisbury Infirmary; Sydney (N.S.W.) General Hospital; and in London, at Marylebone Workhouse Infirmary, the Metropolitan and National Nursing Association, the North London District Nursing Association, the Paddington Association, St. Mary's Hospital, and the Westminster Hospital. To many of these Institutions a large number of nurses, forming in some cases a complete Nursing staff, had been provided from the Nightingale School, and the result was the gradual introduction into British Hospitals of an organized system of trained nursing.[157] The movement was not confined to Great Britain. “Nightingale Nurses” became Matrons or Superintendents in many Colonies (e.g. Canada and Ceylon), in India, in Sweden, in Germany, and in the United States. Moreover, other Hospitals and Institutions had followed the lead of Miss Nightingale and established Training Schools, and several of these were again superintended by her pupils; as, for instance, at Edinburgh (under Miss Pringle), at the Marylebone Infirmary (Miss Vincent), at St. Mary's (Miss Williams), and at the Westminster (Miss Pyne). These Schools in their turn sent out Lady Superintendents, Matrons,[257] and nurses to other institutions, and thus the movement of the waters, which Miss Nightingale was able to start after her return from the Crimea, extended in an ever-widening circle. “Let us hail,” she said in an Address to her own Probationers (1884), “the successes of other Training Schools, sprung up, thank God, so fast and well in latter years. But the best way we can hail them is not to be left behind ourselves. Let us, in the spirit of friendly rivalry, rejoice in their progress, as they do, I am sure, in ours. All can win the prize. One training school is not lowered because others win. On the contrary, all are lowered if others fail.”

The appointment of a Nightingale Nurse to a post outside St. Thomas's did not mean that she passed out of Miss Nightingale's ken. On the contrary, it meant, as we have already heard (p. 191), that her cares took further scope. “I am immersed,” she wrote to M. Mohl (June 21, 1873), “in such a torrent of my trained matrons and nurses, going and coming, to and from Edinburgh and Dublin, to and from watering-places for their health, dining, tea-ing, sleeping—sleeping by day as well as by night.” “Her attitude to her lieutenants,” says one of them, “was that of a mother to daughters. Yet they were not living with her in an enclosure, but were out in the open encountering the experiences of their individual lives, often under very difficult conditions. When they confided their trials to her, she advised them in the spirit of her own high aims, wrestling with them or encouraging them, as the case might be, with fulness of attention, which might lead each one of us in turn to think that she had no other care.” Miss Nightingale's own papers, and letters to nurses which I have seen, bear out all this in the fullest degree and to an amazing point of detail. With an erring Sister she took infinite pains. She was firm to save from any discredit the good name of the Nightingale School and to maintain the efficiency of its work; but this firmness went hand in hand with infinite pity for the individual, and any pain which her discipline may have caused to others was as nothing compared to the agony which her own tender and self-torturing soul endured. All Nightingale Sisters were her “daughters,” alike in Canada or in Scotland, as at St. Thomas's. She advised them,[258] helped them, planned for them, with an extraordinary thoroughness. Was a Sister returning to work in the North after a holiday in London? She would remember how careless girls sometimes are of regular meals, and her Commissionaire would be dispatched to see the Sister off and put a luncheon-basket in the carriage. Miss Nightingale was an old hand at purveying, and amongst her papers are careful lists of what such baskets were to contain. She heard of a member of a certain nursing staff being run down. “What Miss X. wants is to be fed like a baby,” she wrote, sending a detailed dietary and adding, “Get the things out of my money.” She was constant in seeing that her “daughters” took proper holidays; sometimes helping to defray the expense, more often having them to stay with her in South Street or in the country. She was constant, too, in sending them presents of books—both of a professional kind likely to be of help to them in their work, and such as would encourage a taste for general literature. To those who were in London hospitals or infirmaries, her notes were often accompanied by “fresh country eggs,” game, or flowers. She always remembered them when Christmas came round and sent evergreens for the wards. At one or two of the London Infirmaries there is a Matron's Garden, planted with rhododendrons. The plants were sent by Miss Nightingale from Embley. To the nurses serving under her friends she sent presents also. She had a verse of the Hospital Hymn[158] finely illuminated on a large scale and gave it, suitably framed, to various institutions. She was as curious and as helpful in relation to the nursing arrangements in other hospitals as in St. Thomas's itself. Her pupils, wherever they might be, referred to their “dear Mistress” or “dearest friend” in all their trials, difficulties, perplexities, and she never failed them—sending words of encouragement, advice, and good cheer. “Should there be anything in which I can be of the least use, here I am”: this was a frequent formula in her messages. In these letters a religious note is seldom absent. Never, I imagine,[259] has there been a series of letters in which a high ideal was more continually and persistently presented. But the letters are not less conspicuous for shrewd practical sense and worldly wisdom—as, for instance, when she advises a candidate for a certain post not to frighten the Hospital Board by starting a suggestion at once “to reform the whole system.” Miss Nightingale put a high value, too, upon esprit de corps as an aid to maintaining a high standard of duty. Every pupil of the Nightingale School was taught to think of it as an Alma Mater to which she owed much, even as she had received much; all the Sisters who went out into the world from the School were encouraged to regard themselves as members still of a corporate body, however widely separated from one another they might be. Miss Nightingale's letters often included news of one “old boy,” so to speak, passed on to another; each was inspired to take courage from the success of others. The volume of correspondence thus grew from year to year, as the circle widened, and at the time with which we are now concerned it was enormous. The wonder is how Miss Nightingale was able to do anything else besides. Mothers with large families sometimes find the burden of correspondence heavy as the sons and daughters leave home and have families of their own. Headmasters, who make a point of keeping in touch with old pupils, find it heavier still, when they are called upon to advise or sympathise with each successive school-generation upon openings, prospects, careers. The secretaries of the Appointments Boards, which now organize this kind of work in the case of Universities, do not find their duties light. Combine these functions of mother, headmaster, and Appointments Board, and an idea will be obtained of Miss Nightingale's work as the Nursing Chief.

A selection of extracts from particular letters to various correspondents will perhaps convey the impression better than any further attempt at general description. The extracts are only not typical in that I omit details about nursing arrangements and hospital cases:—

(To a Matron whose assistant was leaving to undertake a new work.) 35 South Street, Sept. 30 [1876]. 6 A.M. My Dearest “Little Sister”—This comes that you may know (though you[260] cannot know) how much one is thinking of you—here below—in what must be a terrible wrench in our lot: as to the little mother who is left behind and to the daughter who goes to try her fate even in the happiest change of a new and untried future, it must be a terrible wrench. But if I am thinking and feeling and praying for you so much, how must the One Above feel for you? A sober view both you and I take of the possible futures of life: veiled in mist and sometimes, nay often, in drizzle: with gleams of the Father's love, in bright sunshine: and both of us knowing well that “behind the clouds” He is still shining, brightly shining: the Sun of Righteousness. Though I ought to take a far soberer view than you, my dear “Little Sister,” for I have undergone twice your years. And for the same reason I ought too, though I am afraid faith often fails me, to take a brighter view too. But whether I do or not and whether I write or not, your trials shall always be my trials, dear “Little Sister,” your people shall be my people, as my God is your God. There can be no stronger tie. I think this letter will reach you just as Miss Williams has started. She will find a letter of welcome from me at St. Mary's.[159] I daresay just now she feels dreary enough. But her great spirit will soon buckle to her work: and find a joy in it. I am glad she takes some of your own people. I do earnestly trust that you will find help and comfort in Miss Pyne, to whom my best love, and Miss Mitchelson. I am sure you do not feel so stranded as I did when I was left at Scutari in the Crimea War alone, when Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge went home: on many, many times since—when Sidney Herbert, the War Minister with whom I had worked five years in the War Office died: when Sir John Lawrence, the Indian Viceroy, left India: and many other times when the future fell across my life like a great black wall, not (as in other lives) making a change, but completely cutting off the future from the past: and again when my Father's death brought upon me a load of cares which would have been too great had I had nothing else to do and had I been in health. I tell you these things, my dear “Little Sister,” or rather my dearest child, because—because—I was going to say something, but I can only pray.… Give all our members of our common calling with you who remember me my heart-felt sympathy that they are losing Miss Williams: and give them joy that they have you. God bless us all: a solemn blessing.—F. N.

(To a Nurse confronted with a difficult situation.) Lea Hurst,[261] August 30 [1873].… It is quite useless for either you or me to take upon ourselves the solution of this enormous difficulty: we must leave it to God. But at present the duty is plain. And God always helps those who are obeying His call to duty: often gives them the privilege of saving others. Do you remember the great London theatre which was burnt down at a Christmas pantomime? Who were the heroes then? The poor clown and the poor pantaloon who were at their duty! The audience who were there because they liked it made a selfish stampede, and but for a lucky accident might all have been crushed or burnt. But the clown and the pantaloon, though there was not a moment to save a shawl or a coat to throw over the ballet-dancers—gauze-dressed women who, if a spark had fallen upon them would have been instantly in a blaze—actually carried out every one of these women safely into the snow, gauze and all. And the carpenter collected the poor little ballet-children and dragged them through the snow and slush to his own house, where he kept them in safety. Brave clown—brave pantaloon—brave carpenter (while the selfish audience who were there for amusement almost jostled each other to death). So does God always stand by those who are there for duty—though they be only a clown or pantaloon. All our cares arise from one of two things: either we have not taken up our work for His love, in which case we know He has bound Himself to take our cares upon Him: or we do not sufficiently see His love in calling us to His work.

(To a Lady Superintendent.) 35 South Street, Dec. 30 [1874]. I wish you and all our Nurses “God Speed” with all my soul and strength at the beginning of this New Year which I hardly expected to see. May it bring every blessing to them; though sometimes, do you know, I am so cowardly that I scarcely dare to say “God bless you” to those I love well: because we know what His blessings are. “Blessed are they that mourn: Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake: Blessed are the pure in heart.” And as we get on in life, we know both how truly those blessings are blessings, and how much there is to go through to win them. You are young, my dear: a thousand years younger than this old black beetle. And I have often a shuddering sort of maternal feeling in wishing you “blessings.” …

(To a Matron who was having a dispute with her Committee.) … My thoughts are your thoughts; they are full of your—may I not say our?—sad affair. And I was just sending you a note to ask what was doing when your sad little note came. Is not the thing of first importance to lay a statement of the whole case[262] before your President? Nay, would it not be breaking faith with him if it were not done? This is now being done. Is not the next thing for you to take no step till you know the results of this letter to him—the next action he will take? You will remember that I stated to him at your friend's suggestion and at yours, that you wished for, that you invited, a full investigation to be made by him and that you wished to abide by his decision. I thought this so important, in order that I might not appear to be asking for any personal favour but only for justice, that I underlined it. Will it not seem as if you were afraid to await his full understanding of the case (how far from the truth!) if you precipitately resigned before he had had time even to consider the statement? The Matron must show no fear, else it would indeed be sacrificing the fruit of eight years' most excellent work. Surely she should wait quietly—that is the true dignity—with her friends around her till the President's answer is given. The “persecuted for righteousness' sake” never run away.

(To a Matron after a visit to South Street.) Dearest Little Sister and Extraordinary little Villainess—You absconded last night just as your dinner was going up, and it would not have taken you longer to eat your dinner here than your supper at hospital. I was a great goose not to make certain of this when you arrived. But I thought it was agreed. To punish you I send your dinner after you.

(To the same.) 10 South Street, April 21 [1879]. Dearest, very Dearest—Very precious to me is your note. I almost hope you will not come to-morrow: the weather is so cold here. St. Mary's expects you: and next do I. Be sure that the word “trouble” is not known where you are concerned. Make up your dear mind to a long holiday: that's what you have to do now. God bless you. We shall have time to talk.

Thus day after day and year after year did such correspondence continue—now grave, now gay; filled alike with affection and with counsel. I have counted as many as a hundred letters received in a year from a single Superintendent. There were several years in which the total of Miss Nightingale's nursing correspondence has to be counted in thousands. As the years passed the demand on her affections, her brain-power, and her bodily strength became well-nigh overwhelming.



Miss Nightingale did not rely only upon individual intercourse for the exercise of influence. She believed in the pulpit, as well as in the closet, and from time to time addressed the Probationer-Nurses collectively.[160] Of the first of the series, written in 1872, Dr. Sutherland, to whom Miss Nightingale submitted her manuscript, said: “It is just what it ought to be, written as the thoughts come up. This is the only writing which goes like an arrow to its mark. It is full of gentle wisdom and does for Hospital nursing what your Notes did for nursing.” It is the best of her Addresses, and the medical officers at St. Thomas's insisted on every Probationer mastering it. There is naturally a good deal of repetition in the Discourses as a whole. The gist of them is: that nursing requires a special call; that it needs, more than most occupations, a religious basis; that it is an art, in which constant progress is the law of life; and lastly, that the nurse, whether she wills it or not, has of necessity a moral influence. These ideas appear in almost every Address, and are illustrated in various ways. “A woman who takes the sentimental view of Nursing (which she calls ‘ministering,’ as if she were an angel) is of course worse than useless; a woman possessed with the idea that she is making a sacrifice will never do; and a woman who thinks any kind of Nursing work ‘beneath a Nurse’ will simply be in the way.” The true Nurse must have a vocation; and, next, she must follow the call in a religious spirit. “If we have not true religious feeling and purpose, Hospital life, the highest of all things with these, becomes without them a mere routine and bustle, and a very hardening routine and bustle.” To follow nursing as a religious vocation is, however, not enough; for it is a difficult art, requiring constant study and effort. This is the note which Miss Nightingale struck in the opening words of her first Address and it is the one which most frequently recurs. The besetting sin of the Nightingale Nurses in the early days was, it seems, self-sufficiency. They knew that their Training School was[264] the first of its kind; and they were apt to give themselves airs. Mr. Henley's character-sketches in verse of the “Lady Probationer” and “Staff-Nurse, New Style,” hint pleasantly at this, and in plain prose men used to write of “the conceited Nightingales.” The day is gone by, it was said in a medical journal, when a novel would picture a Nurse as a Mrs. Gamp; she would figure, rather, as active, useful, and clever, but also as “a pert and very conceited young woman.” Self-sufficiency, then, is the failing which the Chief of the Nurses constantly chastises. She does so by holding up before her pupils the ideal of nursing as a progressive art. “For us who nurse,” she says, “our nursing is a thing in which, unless in it we are making progress every year, every month, every week,—take my word for it, we are going back. The more experience we gain, the more progress we can make. The progress you make in your year's training with us is as nothing to what you must make every year after your year's training is over. A woman who thinks in herself: ‘Now I am a full Nurse, a skilled Nurse, I have learnt all that there is to be learnt’—take my word for it, she does not know what a Nurse is, and she never will know; she is gone back already.” This rule applies to the technical side of the work, and perhaps yet more to the moral side. Nurses cannot avoid exercising a moral influence. They exercise it by their characters, and no point can ever be reached at which a woman can say, “Now my character is perfect.” “Nurses are not chaplains”; “it is what a nurse is in herself, and what comes out of herself, out of what she is (almost without knowing it herself) that exercises a moral or religious influence over her patients. No set form of words is of any use. And patients are so quick to see whether a Nurse is consistent always in herself—whether she is what she says to them. And if she is not, it is no use. If she is, of how much use may the simplest word of soothing, of comfort, or even of reproof—especially in the quiet night—be to the roughest patient! But if she wishes to do this, she must keep up a sort of divine calm and high sense of duty in her own mind.” And every good nurse ought to wish to do this, because her opportunities are unique. “Hospital nurses have charge of their patients in a way that no other[265] woman has charge. No other woman is in charge really of grown-up men. Also the hospital nurse is in charge of people when they are singularly alive to impressions. She leaves her stamp upon them whether she will or no.”

Such are the leading ideas which Miss Nightingale develops in her series of Hospital Sermons. I have heard it said that she addressed the Nurses in the style and spirit of the Sunday School. There are passages to which such a description may be applied; but, taken as a whole, the discourses suggest a different comparison: they recall the style and spirit of the best Public School or College Sermons. Sometimes the likeness is close and explicit. On one occasion Miss Nightingale thought that the prevailing evil in her School was a spirit of irresponsible and ill-informed criticism. She rebuked it by telling a true story, which perhaps she may have had from Mr. Jowett:—

In a large college, questions, about things which the students could but imperfectly understand in the conduct of the college, had become too warm. The superintendent went into the hall one morning, and after complimenting the young men on their studies, he said: “This morning I heard two of the porters, while at their work, take up a Greek book lying on my table; one tried to read it, and the other declared it ought to be held upside down to be read. Neither could agree which was upside down, but both thought themselves quite capable of arguing about Greek, though neither could read it. They were just coming to fisticuffs when I sent the two on different errands.” Not a word was added: the students laughed and retired, but they understood the moral well enough, and from that day there were few questions or disputes about the plans and superiors of the college, or about their own obedience to rules and discipline.

Then, again, what boy has not heard in Chapel or in school-song a moral drawn from how things will look “forty years on”? Here is Miss Nightingale's passage on the theme:—

Most of you here present will be in a few years in charge of others, filling posts of responsibility. All are on the threshold of active life. Then our characters will be put to the test, whether in some position of charge or of subordination, or of both. Shall we be found wanting? unable to control ourselves, therefore unable to control others? with many good qualities, perhaps,[266] but owing to selfishness, conceit, to some want of purpose, some laxness, carelessness, lightness, vanity, some temper, habits of self-indulgence, or want of disinterestedness, unequal to the struggle of life, the business of life, and ill-adapted to the employment of Nursing which we have chosen for ourselves and which, almost above all others, requires earnest purpose and the reverse of all these faults. Thirty years hence, if we could suppose us all standing here again passing judgment on ourselves, and telling sincerely why one has succeeded and another has failed—why the life of one has been a blessing to those she has had charge of, and another has gone from one thing to another, pleasing herself and bringing nothing to good—what would we give to be able now to see all this before us?

Then she exhorted her pupils not to be too nice in the picking and choosing of places. “Our brains are pretty nearly useless, if we only think of what we want and should like ourselves; and not of what posts are wanting us, what our posts are wanting in us. What would you think of a soldier who—if he were to be put on duty in the honourable post of difficulty, as sentry may be, in the face of the enemy (and we nurses are always in the face of the enemy, always in the face of life or death for our patients)—were to answer his commanding officer, ‘No, he had rather mount guard at barracks or study musketry’; or, if he had to go as pioneer, or on a forlorn hope, were to say, ‘No, that don't suit my turn?’” So, again, there are excellent little discourses on the Uses and Limits of School Friendships, on the Right Use of Dress, and on the Art of Exercising Authority, with wise sayings taken direct in some cases from Plato. “Those who rule must not be those who are desirous to rule.” “The world, whether of a ward or of an Empire, is governed, not by many words, but by few; though some, especially women, seem to expect to govern by talk and nothing else.” “She who is the most royal mistress of herself is the only woman fit to be in charge; for she who has no control over herself, who cannot master her own temper, how can she be placed over others, to control them through the better principle, if she has none or little of her own?” Her remarks on Dress are interesting, and might be applied, mutatis mutandis, to young men who sometimes combine a habit of slovenliness with a garish taste in waistcoats. Some of the Nightingale[267] nurses seem to have grumbled at the uniform, and to have taken their revenge upon it by gorgeous apparel when off duty. Miss Nightingale avers that to her eye no women's dress was so becoming as that of her Nurses, and for the rest she draws a moral from God's “clothing” of the field flowers:—

First: their “clothes” are exactly suitable for the kind of place they are in and the kind of work they have to do. So should ours be. Second: field flowers are never double: double flowers change their useful stamens for showy petals and so have no seeds. These double flowers are like the useless appendages now worn on the dress, and very much in your way. Wild flowers have purpose in all their beauty. So ought dress to have;—nothing purposeless about it. Third: the colours of the wild flower are perfect in harmony, and not many of them. Fourth: there is not a speck on the freshness with which flowers come out of the dirty earth. Even when our clothes are getting rather old we may imitate the flower: for we may make them look as fresh as a daisy.… Oh, my dear Nurses, whether gentlewomen or not, don't let people say of you that you are like “Girls of the Period”: let them say that you are like “field flowers,” and welcome.

Miss Nightingale often sought, as every good School Preacher seeks, to arrest the attention of the young by topical allusions, especially to stirring and heroic deeds. She often compared Hospital Nurses to missionaries, and held up Livingstone as an example. He was one of the best of missionaries, not as going about “with a Bible in his hand and another in his pack,” but by the influence of his own purity, fidelity, and uprightness. She introduced, in similar fashion, stories of Rorke's Drift, of Tel-el-Kebir, and of Gordon at Khartoum. More rarely she referred to incidents in her own career, and such passages, one can understand, must have sent a thrill through an audience in which most of the Nurses looked up to Florence Nightingale as their “honoured Chief” or “Queen.” But when she thus referred to herself, it was only to say that any success or repute she had attained was due to faithful attention to the smallest details. “The greatest compliment,” she said, “I ever received as a Hospital nurse was this: that I was put to clean and ‘do’ every day the Special Ward, with the[268] severest medical or surgical case which I was nursing, because I did it thoroughly and without disturbing the patient. That was at the first Hospital I ever served in. I think I could give a lesson in Hospital housemaid's work now.” “I have had more experience,” she said in another discourse, “in all countries and in different ways of Hospitals than almost any one ever had before; but if I could recover strength so much as to walk about, I would begin all over again. I would come for a year's training to St. Thomas's Hospital under your admirable Matron (and I venture to add that she would find me the closest in obedience to all our rules), sure that I should learn every day, learn all the more for my past experience, and then I would try to be learning every day to the last hour of my life—‘And when his legs were cuttit off, He fought upon his stumps.’”

The reading of the “Address from Miss Nightingale” was one of the events of the nursing year. Sir Harry Verney, as chairman of the Nightingale Fund, often read the addresses to the assembled Probationers, but they were also printed, and a copy was given to each nurse. For the most part they were written for the Probationers at St. Thomas's, but from time to time Miss Nightingale sent a similar address to the Nightingale Nurses serving in Edinburgh. “The Nurses had been asking me only a few days before,” wrote the Lady Superintendent (Jan. 6, 1875), “whether you had remembered them this year, and were going to write to them. Most of them prize your letters very much. They are trumpet-calls to duty and to greater efforts for a higher standard.” In some years there was another “field-day” for the Nightingale Nurses, when a party of them were invited by Sir Harry and Lady Verney to Claydon, and a long summer day, passed in sauntering in the grounds or in lawn-tennis, ended with a short service in the Church. On one or two of these occasions, Miss Nightingale was able to be present, and photographs were taken of her seated in the midst of the nurses.


The high ideal of the Nurse's calling which Miss Nightingale cherished throughout her life, and strove to inculcate[269] upon her disciples, explains her dislike of schemes of certification, registration, orders, and other professional organization. She was indeed much interested in, and she did much to promote, the practice of thrift and provident assurance among the Nurses.[161] But further than this, in the organization of nursing as a kind of trade union, Miss Nightingale was never inclined to go, and, as we shall hear in a later chapter, she was altogether opposed to a professional “register.” There were those who maintained that the problem of improving Nursing was an economic problem; that good pay would attract good nurses; that the market was spoiled by the intrusion of “lady” volunteers. But to Miss Nightingale Nursing was a Sacred Calling, only to be followed by those who felt the vocation, and only followed to good purpose by those who pursued it as the service of God through the highest kind of service to man. There were those, again, who approached the problem from a point of view the opposite of the economic, and thought that a “religious” motive (in the ordinary sense of the term) was the sure way to good nursing, and who thus attached supreme importance to organization in “Orders,” “Companies,” and the like. To this view Miss Nightingale was equally opposed, because to her Nursing was an Art, and the essence of success was artistic training. A collection of passages, taken from a mass of correspondence, etc., on the subject,[162] may serve to make her point of view clear. “The Supply and Demand principle, taken alone, is a fallacy. It leaves out altogether the most important element, viz. the state of public opinion at the time. You have to educate public opinion up to wanting a good article. Patent pills are not proved to be good articles because the public pays heavily for them. Many matrons are dear at £30 a year. Do you suppose that if we were to offer £150 we should get a good article at once? I trow not; and I say this from no theory, but from actual experience. It is very easy to[270] pay. It is very difficult to find good Nurses, paid or unpaid. It is trained Nurses, not paid nurses, that we want. It is not the payment which makes the doctor, but the education.—It is a question of no importance in regard to any art, whether the painter, sculptor, or poet is a ‘lady’ or a person working for her bread, a volunteer, or a person of the ‘lower middle class.’ Some thirty years ago I remember reading Rejected Addresses. A gentleman, endeavouring to explain how a certain lady ‘became the mother of the Pantalowski’ observes, ‘The fineness of the weather, the blueness of her riding-habit all conspired to interest me’ (I quote from memory). We are pleased to hear that the weather was fine and that the habit was blue, but we do not see what they have to do with it. I am neither for nor against ‘Lady Nurses’ (what a ridiculous term! what would they say if we were to talk about ‘Gentlemen Doctors’?). I am neither for nor against ‘Paid Nurses.’ My principle has always been: that we should give the best training we could to any woman of any class, of any sect, paid or unpaid, who had the requisite qualifications, moral, intellectual, and physical, for the vocation of a Nurse. Unquestionably, the educated will be more likely to rise to the post of Superintendents, not because they are ladies, but because they are educated.—The relation of a nursing staff to the medical officers is that of the building staff to an architect. And neither can know its business if not trained to it. To pit the medical school against the nurse-training school is to pit the hour-hand against the minute-hand. The worst nursing in Europe is that of Sisterhoods, where no civil administration or medical school is admitted. The worst hospitals in Europe are those where no nurse-training schools are admitted, where the doctor is, in fact, the matron.—You ask me whether it is possible to follow out successfully the profession of Nursing except from ‘higher motives.’ What are the ‘higher motives’? That is what I want to know. Nearly all the Christian Orders will tell you: the first is to save your soul. The Roman Catholics will tell you, to serve God's Church. But they do not infer that you are to strain mind and soul and strength in finding out the laws of health. The religious motive is[271] not higher, but lower, if the element of religion enters in to impede this search. In the perfect nurse, there ought to be what may be called (1) the physical (or natural) motive, (2) the intellectual (or professional) motive, and (3) the religious motive—all three. The natural motive is the love of nursing the sick, which may entirely conquer (as I know by personal experience) a physical loathing and fainting at the sight of operations, etc., and I do not believe that the ‘higher motive’ (as it is usually called) can so disguise a natural disinclination as to make a nurse acceptable to the patients. The good nurse is a creature much the same all the world over, whether in her coif and cloister, or taking her £20 or £50 a year. The professional motive is the desire and perpetual effort to do the thing as well as it can be done, which exists just as much in the Nurse, as in the Astronomer in search of a new star, or in the Artist completing a picture. These may be thought fine words. I can only say that I have seen this professional ambition in the nurse who could hardly read or write, but who aimed just as much at perfection in her care and dressings as the surgeon did in his operation. The ‘professional’ who does this has the higher motive; the ‘religious’ who thinks she can serve God ‘anyhow’ has not. But I do entirely and constantly believe that the religious motive is essential for the highest kind of nurse. There are such disappointments, such sickenings of the heart, that they can only be borne by the feeling that one is called to the work by God, that it is a part of His work, that one is a fellow-worker with God. ‘I do not ask for success,’ said dear Agnes Jones, even while she was taking every human means to ensure success, ‘but that the will of God may be done in me and by me.’”

Holding these convictions, Miss Nightingale believed much in individual influence, and little in organized institutions. “For my part,” she said, “I think that people should always be Founders. And this is the main argument against Endowments. While the Founder is there, his or her work will be done, not afterwards. The Founder cannot foresee the evils which will arise when he is no longer there. Therefore let him not try to establish an Order. This has been most astonishingly true with the Order of the Jesuits[272] as founded by S. Ignatius Loyola, and with S. Vincent de Paul's Sœurs de la Charité. It is quite immeasurable the breadth and length which now separates the spirit of those Orders from the spirit of their Founders. But it is no less true with far less ambitious Societies.” So, then, Miss Nightingale had little faith in forms and institutions, and in one of her later Addresses (1888) she expressed herself in terms of apprehensive scepticism about the validity of nursing Certificates and Associations, and of the importance attached to making nursing a “Profession.” It was the higher motive (as interpreted above) to which she attached supreme importance, and for inculcating it she believed that only individual influence could avail. Did she succeed or fail herein? It may be that, in dearth of inspiring individuals, professional organization is the second best thing, and fills a useful place. Miss Nightingale herself was always more conscious of her failures than of her successes. But it is impossible for anyone who has been privileged to read the correspondence between Miss Nightingale and her pupils not to feel assured that the spirit of the Founder was imparted to other high-minded women who carried the work into many fields. The best of her pupils were the most conscious, like their Mistress, of shortcomings. “I have failed,” wrote one of them, in pouring out her soul during a holiday retrospect, “failed in the thing you most speak of, failed in carrying on my Nurses ‘in the path towards perfection.’” “But the Master whisper'd, ‘Follow the Gleam.’” Of one of her best pupils it was recorded that “she never spoke or cared to be reminded of what she had done; her constant cry was ‘How many things still remain to be done.’”[163] This lady was a true disciple of the Founder. To the end of her life it was on the path towards perfection that Miss Nightingale's heart and mind were set. In her last years, when her secretary sought to interest her by talk about hospitals and nurses, she was never greatly pleased by any record of things well done. “Tell me,” she would say, “of something which might be made better.”




Never to know that you are beaten is the way to victory. To be before one's Government is an honourable distinction. What greater reward can a good worker desire than that the next generation should forget him, regarding as an obsolete truism work which his own generation called a visionary fanaticism?—Florence Nightingale (1877).

Miss Nightingale was in one sense never more in office than when she was “out of office.” The passion of her later life was the redress of Indian sufferings and grievances, and during the years 1874–79, and for many years afterwards, she did an enormous amount of work to that end. It was the kind of work which a Minister does, or sets his subordinates to do, when he is getting up a subject for parliamentary debate, or framing a project of legislation. The milieu in which Miss Nightingale did this work was also in a sense official. Her excursions into difficult problems of Indian policy and administration were regarded by many people as unsafe and inexpedient, and this view was not confined to such officials as disagreed with her conclusions. Mr. Jowett was alternately overborne by her enthusiasm into trying to help her Indian work, and insistent upon her giving up most of it. The latter attitude predominated. Indian land questions were not her special subjects; she could never hope to know the ins and outs of them. Her sister was uniformly of the same opinion: “What can you know about such things, my dear?” But, after all, how much does a minister know at first-hand of the business of a Department new to him? Generally, far less than Miss Nightingale knew of Indian business. A minister either[274] accepts the views of his subordinates, or becomes himself a master of his subject by using access to the best sources of information. Miss Nightingale, to a considerable extent, had access to the same sources. She corresponded with successive Secretaries of State and Viceroys. She was in close touch during many years with the Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Louis Mallet, who, though he did not always agree with her particular conclusions, was entirely sympathetic in her general aims, and, so far as official propriety admitted, gave her every facility for pursuing her researches. Indian Governors and ex-Governors were at her service for information or discussion. There is voluminous correspondence during these years with her old friends, Lord Napier and Ettrick and Sir Bartle Frere, and with new friends, Sir George Campbell and Sir Richard Temple. With Sir George, a frequent visitor at South Street, she was especially well pleased. “Not for years,” she wrote to M. Mohl (Aug. 10, 1874), “have I seen a man in such heroic passion against oppression.” Anglo-Indians, when in retirement in South Kensington, are seldom averse from imparting their views, and Miss Nightingale had a retinue of them, pleased to give her information. Those who had inside experience knew how much she had done for India, and took it as a compliment that she should notice their work and ask them for advice. “Accept my most grateful thanks,” wrote General Baker, on retiring from the India Office Council (Oct. 11, 1875), “not only for your very kind letter[164] and important pamphlet, but also for one of the most complete and agreeable surprises that I have ever met with. It never occurred to me for a moment that my humble efforts for the sanitation of India were so indulgently watched by the High Priestess of the Science.” Colonel Yule, the member of Council who succeeded Sir Bartle Frere in the charge of sanitary affairs, and Mr. W. T. Thornton, the Secretary for Public Works, were in frequent correspondence with her. On the special subject of irrigation, she was “coached,” not only by a leading authority presently to be mentioned, but by General Rundall (ex-Inspectorgeneral[275] of Indian irrigation), Colonel J. G. Fife, Colonel F. T. Haig, and many other experts. When she turned to Indian education, Mr. A. W. Croft, the Director of Public Instruction, corresponded freely with her. Of her private studies, there is evidence in a great accumulation of Indian Blue-books, Proceedings, Minutes, pamphlets, and other papers, of which many are annotated, abstracted, collated. She had, too, a network of correspondents in India. There were in various parts of the country Sanitary Commissioners, doctors, engineers, Irrigation officers, who wrote to her constantly, and sometimes more freely than in official reports. There were occasions—as in a dispute, once hot, now as dead as the unhappy subjects of it[165]—when her friends in the India Office had to admit that her information was earlier and better than theirs. So, then, if her friends asked why she meddled in affairs of which she could not really know anything, she only set the harder to work in mastering the voluminous information at her disposal.

Yet, all the while, she was “out of office.” The conjunction of circumstances which gave her much immediate power at the War Office, through Sidney Herbert, and afterwards in the earlier stages of Indian sanitary reform, was no longer operative; and there was now disproportion between her expenditure of effort and the immediate effect which it produced. In this part of her life's work Miss Nightingale suffered from some confusion of aim. Her official connections, though they gave her the advantage of some good information, interfered with the effect of her work as a publicist. Her work as a publicist made her distrusted in some official circles. She would perhaps have done better to confine her exertions to the influencing of public opinion by more consistent and sustained writing. The pity of it is, as we shall learn presently, that the book which she designed as a permanent contribution to the Indian question was never completed in her life-time. Still, in spite of all, Miss Nightingale's work as an Indian Reformer, which absorbed many hours of every day in her life for twenty-five years, was not without effect. In various specific matters she[276] exerted some influence at the time; whilst her personal influence and her writings did something to form the public opinion which made later reforms possible.


Miss Nightingale's primary interest in India was in connection with sanitation, and I shall give one or two instances of her resumed activity in this field before passing to the larger sphere into which that interest came necessarily to be absorbed. From time to time she still intervened, and not without success, to promote the health of the Army in India. Thus, on July 21, 1874, the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Napier of Magdala, wrote to her, enclosing a Minute which he had “been obliged to write in defence of the soldiers,” as improvements to barracks and in other respects were “delayed year after year.” The Minute, he explained, was Private and Confidential, but he wished that the facts which had called it forth could be used in some legitimate way. “I cannot help telling you, dear Miss Nightingale, as I know you love the soldiers as well as you did in the Crimea when you broke down the doors of red tape for them, a scene which I hope to see embodied in marble before I die.” On receipt of this letter, Miss Nightingale called a meeting of her Indian Council—Sir Bartle Frere and Dr. Sutherland. Sir Bartle made inquiries about the Minute, and found that the Government of India had not yet communicated it to the India Office. He prepared the ground by informing the Secretary of State of the fact that such a Minute had been written. He suggested to Miss Nightingale that, without using any private and confidential information, it would be possible to draw up a statement upon measures urgently needed for the further improvement of the health of the soldiers in India. With the help of Sir Bartle Frere and Dr. Sutherland this was done; and Miss Nightingale in Council sent a dispatch to the Secretary of State. In Disraeli's second Administration Lord Cranborne (now become Marquis of Salisbury) had resumed his former place at the India Office:—

(Miss Nightingale to Lord Salisbury.) Lea Hurst, Oct. 28[277] [1874]. Dear Lord Salisbury—As you were so very good, when you were kind enough to acknowledge my paper on “Life or Death in India,” as to ask me (where permission was all that I could have expected as most gracious on your part) to submit any facts or suggestions to you, I venture without troubling you with more apology to lay before you the following:—(1) The grasp of the Famine is now relaxed, though to make it relax has cost a vast expenditure with very little return except in lives. Other lives seem now to be in jeopardy from the economy consequent upon this noble and never to be regretted expenditure, viz. soldiers' lives. There is no greater extravagance than extravagance in lives. The Crown Prince of Germany said two months ago[166] (a very remarkable doctrine for him) that we could add to the strength and numbers of organized armies by sanitary works, and that money well employed in these will as much contribute to military force as money spent on fortifications and on direct military organizations. A great deal has been done already in India, and great results to our Soldiers' health have followed; but does not much more remain to be done before the results of 2 or 3 favourable years (for there was little cholera) can become permanent? Does not experience show that, as the greatest saving in outlay is that which can be effected in the cost of the military defences of the country, so it is the truest economy not to stay your hand in improving the military stations and their surroundings until every station in India has been put in the most healthy state practicable? In the meantime, if it is necessary to check outlay, should not the check be exercised on things that can stand over for a few years? (2) For in reality points connected with the soldier's health cannot stand over. The man is dead or invalided—the man, the most costly article we have; and you have to replace him with another costly article. Is not every neglect or miscalculation on this point sure to add to the national expenditure a far higher amount than would be the capitalized cost of the improvements? The improvements required now at many Stations are the following.… [a detailed list, under various heads of kind and place]. (6) To you it is needless to say that this relates to one half only of the Indian Army (i.e. that under the direct control of Lord Napier of Magdala), and that Madras and Bombay have (between them) at least an equal proportion of unsupplied wants, for they have not had five years of Lord Napier's wise and humane advocacy. (7) In India it is always possible to fall into the mistake of spending money uselessly. Fortunately, however, there[278] is a way out of it in the appointment of Mr. Clark, the great Calcutta Municipality Engineer, who has drained and water-supplied Calcutta, to go out and do a similar scheme for Madras.… [detailed suggestions for further instructions to Mr. Clark].

(Lord Salisbury to Miss Nightingale.) Arlington Street, Nov. 4 [1874]. Dear Miss Nightingale—I assure you we are not blind to the importance of the objects which you advocate, nor are we the least inclined to interpose any unnecessary delay in their prosecution. The difficulty, of course, is money. It is perfectly true that, if the remedies were as certain of their effect as the existence of the evils is certain and serious, we might obviate the difficulty of the money by borrowing without stint. But the consideration which withholds the Indian Government from such a course is the very fact that the remedies are by no means absolutely certain. Take the case of Peshawur for instance. A great deal of money has been spent there already, and a great deal more will be spent; and yet, if I am to believe the reports which I receive from trustworthy authorities, when all the money is spent, it will still be a very unhealthy station, and a very small improvement upon the death-rate will ultimately be the result. I heard Sir George Clark the other day state in Council that one of the new stations in Rajpootana,—I forget which it was,—had become decidedly more unhealthy since remedial measures recommended by the sanitary authorities had been adopted.

There may be something of prejudice and something of timidity in these apprehensions. I do not wish to give to them more weight than they deserve. But it is obvious that in sanitary action we are still groping our way, and that we are far from having arrived at that point of certainty at which it would be safe, on account of any particular series of undertakings, very heavily to pledge the future industry of the Indian people. You must always bear in mind that at this moment our expenditure treads very closely upon the heels of our revenue, and that we absolutely do not know where to turn in order to obtain any great increase of revenue. But if we borrowed very largely, a great increase of revenue would be absolutely necessary to meet the interest of the new debt. However great the value of the improvements, we cannot afford to be bankrupt, and a new productive Indian tax seems as distant as the philosopher's stone. I do not say all this to indicate that we shall slacken in our efforts towards sanitary improvement, or fail to push them forward as fast as we possibly can. But I want you to believe that financial considerations are of some importance; and I feel sure that we should only hinder sanitary improvement, and prevent sanitary truths from being heartily accepted, either by statesmen or by[279] the public at large, if we associated them with a disregard of those financial exigencies upon which such enormous interests depend. We must not let it be said, or even suspected, that sanitary improvement means reckless finance.… But I think the best answer I can give you to the details of your letter is to send it out to the Viceroy, and ask him to let me have a confidential and unofficial report of his intentions in each of these cases. I am sure he feels the importance of these matters as strongly as any one; but I repeat that no one can thoroughly appreciate the difficulties of his position in respect to them who does not understand the extreme anxiety that is connected with the management of Indian finance.

No time was lost, for on January 2, 1875, Lord Salisbury forwarded to Miss Nightingale, with a private note, the reply which he had received from the Governor-General:—

(Lord Northbrook to Lord Salisbury.) Calcutta, Dec. 11 [1874]. I am much obliged to you for sending me Miss Nightingale's letter to you, and although at the risk of answering it imperfectly, I will not delay putting down what occurred to me till another mail—especially as one never can feel secure of one's time in India. First, I beg you to assure Miss Nightingale that I am not likely so much to forget my training under Sidney Herbert at the War Office as to feel indifferent about the health of the soldier in India. She knows as well as I do how much has been done of late years and how satisfactory the result has been, as is shown by the death and sickness returns, and admitted by the Army Sanitary Commission and Sir William Muir (the doctor) in evidence recently given before a Parliamentary Committee. Miss Nightingale is evidently more anxious for the future than dissatisfied with the past. The best thing I can say to reassure her is that in the face of the financial difficulties of last year I left the expenditure upon military public works untouched. It stands for the year at something more than a million, which is as much as we can afford and nearly as much as can be properly supervised. The year before, although most anxious to show a budget which would justify me in discontinuing the Income Tax, I gave an addition of £100,000 to the sum allotted to military public works at the request of Lord Napier. So much for my personal disposition and what I have done hitherto.

As to what remains to be done, I know there is much.… I quite agree in principle with Miss Nightingale's views as to the relative importance of different sorts of works, and we should be guided by the same considerations as far as possible. But there are practical considerations which must interfere with[280] their universal application. For instance, in many places in India owing to a want of labour we can only go on at a certain rate unless at a very greatly increased cost. Again, it is better for many reasons to carry out all the necessary works at one station at the same time, and these works may very probably include some which in themselves may not be so much wanted as other works at other stations. Subject to these qualifications, barracks, hospitals, water-supply, and drainage should come first, and recreation-rooms, &c., follow.… Miss Nightingale has evidently carefully studied some of the details of our requirements, and is not very far out in her list of works. She will be glad to hear that it is not very different from that of the works the Commander-in-Chief has lately brought to our notice, so that their relative importance is sure to be well weighed. Lord Napier takes the liveliest interest in all the military public works, and having nothing to do with finding the money, is pretty sure to have no scruple in pressing us hard. Some of the works mentioned in the list I know myself, so I will make one or two remarks … [detailed observations]. I am very glad to hear that Mr. Clark is well enough to come out to India again. When he has done his work in Madras I think we may very probably ask him to advise us as to the water-supply of some stations. I was much taken with the apparent simplicity and economy of a plan which he showed me. As regards Miss Nightingale's observations on the subject of recreation-rooms and the sale of spirits in canteens: the soldiers are uncommonly well off in India generally for recreation-rooms and take advantage of them largely. The reason for selling spirits at canteens is, I believe, that if not sold men would buy noxious spirits in the bazaars. No head of the Army in India has ever recommended that the sale should be prohibited. The temperance movement is spreading widely among the troops in Bengal. By the last returns there were between 5 and 6 thousand members of the Temperance Society in the British Army in Bengal (including women and children). I have been struck generally with the good conduct and respectable appearance of British soldiers in India, and think we may well be proud of our army.

I have written on, as the subject is one in which I have for a long time taken a personal interest, and Miss Nightingale may be glad to know that I have not neglected it here. I can promise you that, so far as our funds will permit, every attention shall be paid to the health of the British and the Native Army in India.

Such intervention, as is disclosed in the foregoing documents, was repeated from time to time in connection with various sanitary measures, and was not without effect[281] in keeping those matters to the front. A parliamentary debate, even sometimes a mere question in Parliament, has effect upon bureaucracy. In the times with which we are now dealing, “Members of Parliament for India” were few. “I could have kissed Lord Cranborne,” exclaimed Miss Nightingale once, “for saying that in the approaching elections for a Parliament which is to decide on the destinies of 180 millions, the future representatives who are to represent India as well as us had only in two instances in their addresses mentioned the existence of India.”[167] Miss Nightingale's private letters and printed articles did something to fill the gap. She had the ear of the great personages; they knew how much she knew, and they respected her devotion and sincerity. They listened to her, and her letters often produced the kind of stimulating result that sometimes follows a parliamentary intervention. She showed the correspondence with Lord Salisbury and Lord Northbrook to Sir Bartle Frere. “That Caesar,” he wrote (Jan. 16, 1875), “should at once sit down and write six sheets of quarto letter paper, to show he is taking proper care of his Legions is satisfactory; as proving that your letter moved him and that the subject greatly interested him.” “The result is just what I expected,” wrote another Anglo-Indian, on the occasion of a later intervention by Miss Nightingale. “They treat me with contempt, but they don't ignore you. The first thing the Governor did on seeing your letter was to sit down and write a full exoneration of himself to the Secretary of State. The second, I have no doubt, will be to call for his officials and hurry on the work.”


As Public Health Missionary for India, Miss Nightingale made the state of the town of Madras a text for constant exhortations. Madras ranked at that time second for unhealthiness among the great cities of India (Delhi being first[168]). Whereas the death-rate in Calcutta and in Bombay[282] was falling, in Madras it was rising.[169] Miss Nightingale, like every other sanitary expert who had examined the facts, ascribed the high rate of mortality to the deplorable state of the drains; and there were Indian officials, both in London and in India, who turned to her in the hope that she might be able to stir up the higher authorities to insist on something being done. Her friend, Mr. Clark, had devised a scheme; either it should be carried out, or a better one should be substituted. On this subject there is a long correspondence amongst her Papers; and as her principal correspondent was Lord Salisbury, it is not devoid of dry humour. Lord Salisbury confessed that the subject was beyond him; all he could clearly ascertain was that there were as many different opinions as there were persons professing to understand it; but he had good news for his correspondent. The next Governor of Madras was to be the Duke of Buckingham, and the Duke had a curious passion for details. He might be expected, it seemed to be suggested, to take to drains like a rat. So Miss Nightingale waited, and presently Lord Salisbury was sent to the Constantinople Conference on the Eastern Question. At Madras nothing had come of the Duke's love of detail; and as soon as Lord Salisbury returned to England, Miss Nightingale returned to the charge. Lord Salisbury sent her memorandum of suggestions to the Duke, and in due course forwarded to her the Duke's reply (of July 24, 1877). The Governor was studying the question closely, and Lord Salisbury hoped that Miss Nightingale would be pleased. True, there was delay; but then, as he had previously written to her, “The period of growth of all projects in India, in point of length, savours much of the periods of Indian cosmogony.” “I think you will be satisfied,” he now wrote (Aug. 22), “that the Governor of Madras is giving his mind very heartily to the question; and that his previous experience, and the kind of observations into which his singular taste for detail has guided him, have given him some special qualifications for coming to a right decision.” And then came what in a postscript to the High[283] Priestess of sanitation might be thought a “blazing indiscretion,” if it were not obviously a piece of teasing: “I was much impressed at Constantinople with the advantage of having no drains at all, but keeping dogs instead.” I am afraid that from the moment of the receipt of this letter Miss Nightingale's opinion of Lord Salisbury fell; but she was not to be shaken off, and, in consultation with Dr. Sutherland (with hints, too, from an Indian official), she sent a reasoned reply to Lord Salisbury, to his jest about the Constantinople dogs (erroneously called scavengers) and all. She had the advantage of knowing all about Constantinople, and the merits of its natural drainage. As for Madras, she thought that there had been “consideration” enough (it had lasted for more than 20 years), and that the Secretary of State ought to insist on action, in which connection she sent various proposals. Lord Salisbury's reply to Miss Nightingale did not appear to be promising. “The indecision of the Madras Government,” he said (Sept. 19), “is partly due to the fact that various authorities have to be consulted, and no orders from the Secretary of State will prevent those authorities from differing. But the real difficulty,” he added, “is money.” It was all that the Madras Government could do to find money for “imperious necessities.” The implication was that the protection of the public health was not an imperious necessity. A rank heresy, this, in Miss Nightingale's eyes. In sending on Lord Salisbury's letter to Dr. Sutherland, her comment was: “And they call me a dangerous man!” To which Dr. Sutherland replied: “So you are! They tell you a thing can't be done, and you won't believe them! It is all nonsense that the Municipality cannot find money to drain with, and no number of letters can make it sense.” Lord Salisbury's action was, however, more favourable to Miss Nightingale than his letter, for it was presently announced in the Madras papers that the Secretary of State had ordered drainage works of some sort to be carried out at once. If this were so, the words “at once” were interpreted with some reference to “the periods of Indian cosmogony.” The scientific drainage of Black Town, the most thickly populated quarter of Madras, was begun in 1882;[284] that of the remainder of the town was in progress twenty-five years.


Miss Nightingale's interest in details of sanitary reform was gradually merged into larger questions. Recurrent Indian famines gave a new turn to her thoughts. “I have been doing sanitary work for India for 18 years,” she explained in a letter to Lord Houghton (Nov. 27, 1877); “but for the last four have been continually struck by this dreadful fact: What is the good of trying to keep people in health if you can't keep them in life? These ryots are being done to death by floods, by drought, by Zemindars, and usurers. You must live in order to be well.” This indisputable proposition appealed strongly to her emotions. “My mind,” she wrote to Mr. Chadwick (Sept. 14, 1877), “is full of the dying Indian children, starved by hundreds of thousands from conditions which have been made for them, in this hideous Indian famine.… How I wish that some one would now get up an agitation in the country—as Mr. Gladstone did as regards Bulgaria—which should say to the country, You shall, as regards Indian famines and the means of preventing them, among which Irrigation and Water Transit must rank foremost; if we had given them water, we should not now have to be giving them bread.” Miss Nightingale had reached this conclusion by herself in 1873, and it was strongly confirmed in the following year. In February 1874 she was moved to write to Sir Arthur Cotton, “the greatest living master,” as she truly called him, “of the Water Question.” Her letter—the letter of one enthusiast to another—greatly delighted the old Anglo-Indian. “If,” he wrote (Feb. 4), “fifty years of hard work and contempt had produced no other return but a letter from you, it would be an honour beyond what I deserve. The plot is now rapidly thickening, and I have not the smallest doubt that your having taken up this great subject will turn the scale. It is impossible for any person not resident in India to conceive the strength of the prejudice in the minds, not only of the civil officials, but of multitudes out of office on both the points of irrigation and[285] navigation in India. I am assured that there is not a single person in high office now in India who is not in his heart opposed to them both. But we have arrived at a most remarkable crisis now, first in the occurrence of this most terrible famine, and, second, in the revolution in the India Office. Lord Salisbury will think for himself in spite of an Indian Council composed—with only the exception of Sir B. Frere—of men of incurable old Indian bias.” Sir Arthur Cotton's inventive genius has left a permanent impress upon India; but he was now en disponibilité, and he was one of those enthusiasts who, when out of office and unable to carry on their plans, conceive the world to be in wilful conspiracy against them. Moreover, in urging the case for canals, he overstated it by too uncompromising a criticism of railways. During ensuing years Sir Arthur Cotton was one of the most voluminous of Miss Nightingale's correspondents. She was fully alive to the faults of manner which hindered the acceptance of his ideas, and from time to time she pleaded with him for more moderation and less asperity. She herself was sometimes blamed, by Mr. Jowett and others, for over-emphasis. She would laughingly wonder in reply what they thought of Sir Arthur Cotton who gave the public “strong alcohol,” in comparison with which anything of hers was but “watered milk.” She had not far pursued her researches into the Irrigation question before she perceived that it was intimately bound up with the Land question. Who was to pay for irrigation? Were the ryots willing to pay a water-rate? Could they pay it? Were not the Zemindars rapacious? Was not the cultivator at the mercy of the usurers? Sir George Campbell was full of such subjects, and Miss Nightingale proceeded, with his assistance, to master the intricacies of Land tenure in various parts of India, and especially of the “Permanent Settlement” in Bengal. One subject led her on to another, and she became deeply interested in the questions of representation, land, education, usury. She became, in short, an Indian Reformer, or an Indian Agitator, at large.



Her immediate effort, however, was thrown into the advocacy of Irrigation. In view alike of the poverty of India, and of the ever present danger of famine, she held that it was the duty of the Government to promote Irrigation in every way—by great works as well as small, by wells and tanks as much as by great and small canals—by encouraging private capital as well as by making great national grants and loans. The Indian tax-payer was poor, it was said to her; the way to make him less poor, she replied, was to irrigate his land.

Miss Nightingale began her Irrigation campaign with an appeal to Lord Salisbury, and she approached him on a point which she thought would be common ground. She knew that he was of a scientific turn of mind, and hoped he would agree with her that the first thing needful was to obtain complete and trustworthy statistics. She sent him some tentative figures as to the cost of irrigation works already carried out, and the financial results accruing therefrom, confessing, however, that she had experienced great difficulty in obtaining the figures. “I have been too long on the search for such returns myself,” he replied (May 10, 1875), “not to sympathise with your distress.” He proceeded at some length to enumerate “the difficulties in the way of a really rigorous exhibit,” and to state the questions which seemed to him still unsolved with regard to irrigation in general; for instance, “Is irrigation,” he asked, “the creation or merely the anticipation of fertility? Does it make vegetable wealth, which but for it would never have existed, or does it crowd into a few years the enjoyment of the whole productive power of the soil?” Meanwhile he had her figures submitted to critical annotation at the India Office, directed various Papers to be sent to her, and promised to see whether fuller returns could be obtained. As nothing definite resulted, Miss Nightingale suggested the appointment of a Committee or Commission to investigate and report. The suggestion elicited a characteristic reply from Lord Salisbury. “As for a Commission,” he wrote (Nov.[287] 1, 1875), “I doubt its efficiency. Commissions are very valuable to collect and summarize opinion, and they are often able to decide one or two distinct issues of fact. But they are too unwieldy for the collection and digestion of a great variety of facts and figures. With the best intentions, their work is slow and routinier, and in their report they gloss over the weak places with generalities.… As a rule, administrative force is in the inverse proportion of the number of men who exercise it. One man is twice as strong as two; two men are twice as strong as four. Boards and Commissions are only contrivances for making strong men weak.”

From time to time she jogged Lord Salisbury's elbow, asking whether he had yet been able to obtain trustworthy figures, and beseeching him to initiate a great irrigation policy. “Do not for a moment imagine,” he wrote (Feb. 27, 1876), “that I have forgotten the question. The more I go into it, the deeper the mystery appears. Every one who has a right to entertain an opinion on it vindicates that right by entertaining a different one from his neighbour. General Strachey and Sir Barrow Ellis have been engaged upon the matter for years. Both of these assert with confidence that one set of statements is true, while the Government of India, backed by Mr. Thornton, our excellent Public Works Secretary, assert it with no less confidence to be false.… When I am able to get a little light I will let you know; but as long as my oracles flatly contradict each other, I am not likely to get nearer certainty than I am now.” As Lord Salisbury was disinclined to a Committee of experts, she begged him to procure returns from India, and she drew up a model form of inquiry, on which particulars might be asked of the extent of cultivated land in each district, the amount of land under irrigation, the cost of annual repairs, and so forth, and so forth. Lord Salisbury took the suggestion into consideration, and some returns were called for, but nothing came of it for the time. Miss Nightingale then tried to obtain information in another way. There were, she was told, masses of data in the India Office itself, which only needed analysis and tabulation to yield valuable results. Lord Lawrence had introduced to[288] her Mr. Edward Prinsep (late Settlement Commissioner, Punjab) as a man likely to be helpful in such work. She made friends with him; Sir Louis Mallet gave facilities, and Mr. Prinsep began making researches on Miss Nightingale's behalf. Unfortunately for her success, she had the correctitude to ask Lord Salisbury's permission. Lord Salisbury referred her request to the Revenue Department, who in a solemn minute represented the serious precedent that would be set by allowing an outsider to delve in official archives, and Mr. Prinsep had to discontinue his researches. “You are doubtless aware,” Sir Louis Mallet told her dryly, “that in the India Office opinions diametrically opposed are usually entertained on every subject which is discussed.” There was only one certainty, he added, that any decision taken at one time would be reversed at another. Ultimately a good deal of information was collected by a Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Works in India (1878) and by Famine Commissions. Returns, such as Miss Nightingale asked for, are now regularly made.

Some irrigation works were carried out during these years,[170] but no great forward policy in that direction was instituted. The “forward policy” presently adopted was of a very different sort. The thoughts of the politicians were absorbed in other things; the opinions of the bureaucrats were divided, and there was stringency in Indian finance. If the experts could not agree on the proper basis of estimating the results of irrigation, still less were they at one on the kind of irrigation work that was desirable. Every one was agreed in favour of irrigation “in principle”; but as soon as it became a question of detail, whether in finance or in engineering, there were as many opinions as there were experts. One school said, “Borrow the money and the land will be so enriched that the ryot will be able to pay increased taxation.” Another school retorted, “But he will be squeezed out of existence first; therefore, retrench all round, and wait for better times.” Or, if the financial difficulty were overcome, engineering difficulties[289] were raised. One school said, “Make navigable canals,” but that meant fulness of water in them. Another said, “Make canals primarily for irrigation,” but that meant depletion. And so the controversy continued, with no decided impulse from the men in office. Famines came and went; some works were carried out as a form of “relief”; no great preventive policy was established.

Miss Nightingale was much disheartened, but she persevered. She corresponded with everybody of importance whom she could hope to influence. With Lord Lytton, who had succeeded Lord Northbrook as Viceroy in 1876, she was not acquainted; and Lord Beaconsfield she never approached, except on another matter, and then without any encouragement on his part.[171] In April 1878 Lord Salisbury became Foreign Secretary, and was succeeded at the India Office by Mr. Gathorne-Hardy (Lord Cranbrook), Mr. Edward Stanhope becoming Under-Secretary. Mr. Stanhope came to see her (June 1878); and in the following year she sent him the figures of mortality in the last Indian famine, which she had compiled with great labour from various sources of information, and correspondence ensued. She saw and corresponded largely with Sir James Caird, the English representative on the Famine Commission. She tried to incense Lord Houghton on the subject of Indian grievances. She saw and corresponded with Mr. Fawcett. She saw Mr. Bright. She kept up a large and regular correspondence with officials in India. She supplied materials for lectures in England; and, with skilled assistance, she had some maps drawn and engraved, to show the principal works which might be constructed. These maps did service at lectures; and Miss Nightingale also wrote repeatedly in newspapers and magazines—heralding “water-arrivals,”[172] pointing out districts which famine had not[290] visited owing to previous irrigation, and others where similar works might be expected to prevent famine in future; comparing the cost of relief and prevention; urging the importance of extending education; calling attention to oppression in forms of land-tenure and by money-lenders; and generally seeking to arouse public interest at home in the life and sufferings of the voiceless millions in India.

The piece by Miss Nightingale which attracted most attention was an article on “The People of India” in the Nineteenth Century for October 1878. Sir James Knowles's magazine was then in the early days of its influence, and he gave the first place to this article, in which Miss Nightingale administered a wholesome shock to British complacency. “We do not care for the people of India,” she exclaimed. “The saddest sight in the world” was to be seen in the British Empire; it was the condition of the Indian peasant. She gave pitiable facts and figures of Indian famines, and passed on to describe in more detail the evils of usury in the Bombay Deccan. “I cannot tell you,” she wrote to a correspondent in the following year,[173] “the intense interest that I take in the subject: how to raise the indebted poor cultivators of India out of their wretched bondage of poverty, whether by monts de piété, by some National Bank, such as you propose, by some co-operative system, or by all or any of such means.” Miss Nightingale's article was received as a kind of manifesto by those who sympathized with her point of view, and the publication brought a large accession to her Indian correspondence. In official circles it caused some flutter. “I have read your article,” wrote a friend in the India Office (Aug. 8), “with the greatest interest and admiration. The official mind is much disturbed. I overheard a conversation between two magnates (not in the present Government) in which the article was described as a shriek, and the question was whether something could not be done to counteract the impression.” Lord Northbrook, after reading the article, sent to Miss Nightingale an elaborate[291] criticism, not traversing her case in all points, but pleading that she had exaggerated the shadows. With Lord Salisbury's successor at the India Office there was the following correspondence:

(Miss Nightingale to Lord Cranbrook.) August 10 [1878]. Dear Lord Cranbrook—Very meekly I venture to send you a poor little article of mine on the People of India in the Nineteenth Century. I hope if you read it you will not call it a shriek (I am astonished at my own moderation). I am not so troublesome as to expect that you can find time to read it, but the India Office has untold treasures (which it does not know itself) in Reports on these subjects which will engage your busy time; and especially the Deccan Riots Commission Report, on the relation of the ryots and the extortionate money-lenders in the Bombay Deccan, will, I am sure, call for your attention. Can there be any private enterprise in trade or commerce, in manufacture, or in new interests, when to money-lenders are guaranteed by our own Courts the profits, the enormous and easy profits, which no enterprise of the kind that India most wants can rival? What are the practical remedies for extortionate usury in India, and principally in the Bombay Deccan? The Bill now before the Legislature at Simla does not seem to promise much. Does it? The whole subject is, I know, before you. Pray believe me (with some wonder at my own audacity), ever your faithful and grateful servant, Florence Nightingale.

(Lord Cranbrook to Miss Nightingale.) India Office, August 13 [1878]. Dear Miss Nightingale—Having been out of town for two days your note only reached me this morning. I read your article last week with much interest; but, without underrating the griefs of India, I think you generalise too much from one locality. Nevertheless there is enough to stir the heart and mind in search of remedies for admitted evils.—Yours very sincerely, Cranbrook.

The Secretary of State wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, in much the same sense; calling his attention to Miss Nightingale's article, saying that she had generalized too much, but adding, “I shall be truly glad if your legislation can afford a remedy.”[174] The Viceroyalty of Lord Lytton was more famous, however, for the forward policy in Afghanistan than for internal reforms. Miss Nightingale, as a disciple of Lord Lawrence, was wholly opposed to an[292] aggressive policy which, moreover, had the effect of causing retrenchment in all departments except the military.


Miss Nightingale in her propagandist zeal now turned to Mr. Gladstone. She made an article of his, called “Friends and Foes of Russia,” which appeared in the Nineteenth Century (January 1879), the occasion of a letter to him. In this article he had incidentally referred to the loss of “1,400,000 lives” in the last Indian famine. She pointed out to him that his estimate was far below the truth, and she sought to enlist him in a crusade for the Indian causes dear to her heart:—

(Mr. Gladstone to Miss Nightingale.) Hawarden, Jan. 26 [1879]. How many years have elapsed since your name used to sound daily in my ears, and how many sad events, events of varied sadness, have happened in the very place where I used to hear it! All through this Eastern controversy, the most painful of my life, it has been a consolation to know that I was in sympathy with you—especially I remember your most striking declaration about the war against Turkey. I am glad that you approve of my article on the Friends and Foes of Russia, glad that the error you notice is one of under-statement. I had not the means of complete reference when I sent off the sheets, and 1,400,000 seemed to me so awful that I trembled lest I should be over-stating. The first correction I received put four millions—and now you raise it higher still.[175] The Indian question under most vicious handling is growing gigantic and most perilous. Depend on it I will do what I can in it: but I fear this must be little. I fear that—apart from other reasons weighty enough—my taking a leading part in it would at once poison its atmosphere, now that it has come to be a main ground of the controversy between Government and Opposition. When I dealt with the Vernacular Press Act last year, there was no Indian controversy, and I took all the care in my power not to treat it as a contentious question. All this is now changed: and whatever I recommend about India the Tories will oppose. You can hardly be aware[293] of the extraordinary degree in which prejudice and passion have gathered round my very name (as well, I am bound to say, as favour and affection) since the Eastern Question came up. Whether by my fault or not, I can hardly say: but such is the fact. In the line I have followed I must steadily persist to the end of the conflict; but I have all along foreseen the likelihood that it would probably disable me, even if age and other circumstances did not, for rendering any other serious public service in the way of acting, which, it must always be remembered, is so different from that of objecting and censuring.… The whole Indian question will, however, force itself forward, and there will be plenty of hands to deal with it. Mr. Bright is coming here in two days, and I hope to have full conversation with him about it. Believe me, with warm regard and respect, sincerely yours, W. E. Gladstone.

Miss Nightingale continued the correspondence, and presently Mr. Gladstone called upon her to talk over Indian affairs, which were now beginning to assume some importance in his general campaign against the policy of Lord Beaconsfield. Mr. Gladstone's visit was in May. On June 26 Lord Lawrence died, and Miss Nightingale was deeply moved:—

(Miss Nightingale to Mr. Gladstone.) July 6 [1879]. I see you were at Lord Lawrence's funeral yesterday, and you may care to hear the story of his last days from one who has been privileged to know and serve with two such men as Sidney Herbert and John Lawrence—very different, but alike in the “one thing needful”—the serving with all their souls and minds and without a thought of self their high ideal of right. Lord Lawrence's last years were spent in work: he did not read, he studied; though almost blind, he waded with the help of a Private Secretary (who was a lady[176]) thro' piles of blue books—chiefly, but not wholly Indian—bringing the weight of his unrivalled experience to bear upon them. Up to Tuesday night, tho' very ill (he died on Friday), he worked. On the Thursday before, he had spoken in the House of Lords on the Indian Finance question. The disease, tedious and trying, of which he died, was brought on by the London School Board work. He used to come home quite exhausted, saying that he could have done the thing himself in half-an-hour; yet having entered, with a patience very foreign, to his nature, into all the niggling crotchets of everybody on the Board. He gave the impression, I believe,[294] of sternness in public, but the tenderness and the playfulness of his intercourse in private were beyond a woman's tenderness. He was a man of iron; he had gone thro' 40 years of Indian life, in times of danger, toil, and crisis; had been brought seven times to the brink of the grave; and had weathered it all—to die of a School Board at last! He had the blue eye, and the expression in it (before his operation), of a girl of 16, and the massive brow and head of a General of Nations rather than of Armies.… I received a letter from him the day after his death—dictated, but signed by himself, sending me some recent Indian Reports—private papers—which he had read and wished me to read—all marked and the page turned down where he had left off. This was his legacy. O that I could do something for India for which he lived and died! The simplicity of the man could not be surpassed—the unselfishness, the firmness. It was always, “Is it right?” If it was, it was done. It was the same thing: its being right and its being done.… A photograph was taken a few hours after death. If it had been a sketch by Carracci, or Leonardo, or Michael Angelo, we should have said, How far Art transcends Nature. In the holiest pictures of the Old Masters, I have never seen anything so beautiful or so holy. The lips are slightly parted (like those of a child in a rapture of joy on first awakening), with a child-like joy at entering into the presence of the Heavenly Father whom he had served so nobly and so humbly. The poor eyes are looking down, but as if they were looking inward into the soul to realize the rapture—like Milton's “And joy shall overtake him like a flood.” The face is worn. I think sometimes the youth, the physical beauty in the old Italian pictures of Christ do not give the full meaning of “it behoved Him to have suffered these things that He might enter into His glory”; or else, like Titian's “Moneta,” it is the mere ascetic. But here it was the joy arising out of the long trial, the Cross out of which came the Crown. The expression was that of the winged soul, the child-soul as in the Egyptian tomb-paintings, rising somehow without motion (spiritually) out of the worn-out body. (He said on the Sunday, “I can't tell you how I feel: I feel worn out.”) All India will feel his loss. No one now living knows what he did there—in private, I mean, as well as in public—the raising of the people by individuals as well as by Institutions—the letters and messages from Sikhs to him, the Indian gentlemen who used to come to see him here and treated him as their father. The little curs here have barked and bit round the heels of the old lion. He heard them but he heeded not. And now he is gone to undertake yet greater labours, to bless more worlds in the service of God. Lady Lawrence wished to give every one something which had belonged to his[295] personal use. But it was found he had nothing. There were some old clothes, and a great many boots, patched; but nothing else, not even a pin, except his watch, 20 years old, and his walking-stick, which she kept. The lady who served as his secretary after his blindness had his old shoe-horn, and told me this story with an infinite relish of its beauty. It was so characteristic of him. Pardon me if I have taken up your time with my thoughts of John Lawrence. I felt as if I were paying him a last tribute in commending his memory to you.


“O that I could do something for India!” She had done much, and was yet to do more; but it was a constant regret of her later years that she had failed to carry through one piece of work which she had planned. This was a book on the allied questions of Indian Irrigation and Indian Land Tenure, to which, in her first draft, she had given the fanciful title The Zemindar, the Sun and the Watering Pot as Affecting Life or Death in India. Miss Nightingale had first written the book in 1874, and she had several copies privately printed. The earliest copies are prefaced by the following notes on “Dramatis Personæ.” They introduce, besides the Minister on whom at this time she pinned her hopes, her principal informants, and they show the spirit of the book:—

The Marquis of Salisbury: A real workman and born ruler of men. Secretary of State for India by the grace of God.

Sir George Campbell: Ex-Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Gulliver among the Lilliputians.

Sir Arthur Cotton, R.E.: The most perfect master of the water question living.

Colonel Rundall, R.E.: Head of Water Department of Bengal, then of all India; now at home.

Colonel Haig, R.E.: Head of Water Department of Bengal; now at home ill.

The Zemindar: Created Landlord out of Tax-Gatherer. Growing rich.

The Ryot: Created Slave out of Landowner or Privileged Cultivator. Starving. For while “wealth accumulates, men decay.”

Mr. Jowett revised the book many times, and among[296] the first things which he cut out was the characteristic “Dramatis Personæ.” His unfavourable opinion of the book as a literary work prevented the publication of it in 1874. “The style,” he wrote (Aug. 11, 1874), “is too jerky and impulsive, though I think it is logical and effective. You must avoid faults of taste and exaggeration. The more moderate a statement is the stronger it is. But strength lies in paragraphs, in pages, in the whole; not in single sentences. The form should appear to flow irresistibly from the facts and reasonings. ‘What does the man mean by talking to me about style when I am thinking only of the sufferings and oppression of 100,000,000 of Ryots?’ Yes, but if you want to make the English people think about the Ryots you must be careful of the least indiscretion or exaggeration. You must make style a duty, and then your book will last.” And again, “I find myself amid striking expressions, but I do not know where I am.” He told her that she must rewrite the whole thing before publishing it. He offered to help her, and drew out a more methodical scheme; but she was impatient of his “passion for making heads”; besides, his heads “do not cover the ground that I must cover, and do cover ground that I don't want to cover.” She was disheartened, and laid the book aside for a while; but at various times during the following years she resumed work upon it. The book was in two Parts, the first dealing with the Land Question, and being a plea for a reform of the Permanent Settlement, with an appendix (largely contributed by M. Mohl) “On Prussian, Austrian, and Russian Reforms in Abolition of Servitude.” The second Part dealt with Irrigation as affecting Life or Death in India, with an appendix of statistical data. For the first Part she had prepared a series of illustrations of Indian agricultural life and customs. Many of the woodcuts were from sketches by the son of her old friend, Sir Ranald Martin. For the second Part she had prepared the Irrigation maps already mentioned. Meanwhile, the tables of statistics which she had compiled had, owing to the delay, become out of date. Some of her friends—Sir Bartle Frere and Sir George Campbell and Sir Arthur Cotton—urged her to revise the book and publish it; and there are[297] in existence a series of proofs, in various stages, and belonging to various years, corrected by the three friends just mentioned and by many others. Lord Lawrence too had read the book carefully, and one of his last letters to Miss Nightingale contained a full discussion of many of the points involved in it. Clearly the book first written in 1874 required in 1879 large revision, and she could not bring herself to do it. In later years she used some of the material in other ways; it served, indeed, as a quarry for many articles, papers, and private letters; but she never ceased to regret that she had not been able to leave in permanent literary form her views on the questions discussed in the book. In her Will, made in 1896, she left special provision for the publication of “such part, if any,” as her executors might think fit, of the “books, papers (whether manuscript or printed), and letters relating to my Indian work (together with two stones for Irrigation maps of India, and also with the woodcut blocks for illustration of those works).” By “those works” I take it that she meant principally the book written in 1874. I do not know whether her suggestion will be carried out. If it were, much revision and editing would be necessary. Indian reform moves, it is true, at a rate which “savours much of the periods of Indian cosmogony”; but yet it moves. There is a good deal in Miss Nightingale's published and unpublished writings about India which might be collected and still serve as Tracts for the Times; but there is at least as much which is now happily out of date. Of the reform of the Bengal Land System, projected by Lord Ripon, and carried into effect by Lord Dufferin, we shall hear something in a later chapter (VI.). Some of the principal Irrigation works which Miss Nightingale advocated were presently carried out with success, and to the great benefit of the country, notably the Swat river canal (1885), the Chenab canal (1887), and the Jhelum canal (1902). Her Irrigation map, “brought up to date by statistics at the India Office,” was published in 1900;[177] and maps brought up to a later date are accessible.[178] Twenty[298] years after the date of Miss Nightingale's paper on “The People of India,” the area irrigated by “productive” canals had increased from 5 million acres to 9 million, and since 1901 a consistent policy of “preventive” irrigation has been adopted.[179] The policy of introducing some element of representation and of admitting the natives of India more largely to administrative and judicial posts has slowly but steadily progressed since the years when Miss Nightingale turned her attention to such questions.


On all these matters, Miss Nightingale suffered much disappointment and felt great impatience. The positive and statistical bent of her mind inclined her to the conviction that for every acknowledged evil there must be a definite remedy. She wanted a positive policy, clearly laid down and immediately carried out. The attitude of successive Secretaries of State and Governments of India in the years under consideration in this chapter was different. There is a State Paper in which Lord Salisbury, when Secretary for India, wrote a Philosophic Defence of the Policy of Drift.[180] The immediate reference in the Paper was to the land question in Madras, but its argument is applicable to larger ground: it is entirely in keeping, as the reader will observe, with Lord Salisbury's letters to Miss Nightingale on the subject of Irrigation in India. “We must be content to contribute our mite towards a gradual change.… Sir George Campbell appears to dread this gentle mode of progression which he denounces under the name of drifting. I cannot accept the metaphor in its entirety, for I believe that there is still left some, though not a very important, influence for the helm. But with this reservation, I see no terror in the prospect of ‘drifting.’ On the contrary, I[299] believe that all the enduring institutions which human societies have attained have been reached, not of the set design and forethought of some group of statesmen, but by that unbidden and unconscious convergence of many thoughts and wills in successive generations, to which, as it obeys no single guiding hand, we may give the name of ‘drifting.’ It is assuredly only in this way that a permanent solution of these difficult questions will be given to the vast communities of India. The vacillation of purpose, the chaos of opinion we are now deploring, only indicate that the requisite convergence has not yet been attained.”

When statesmen assume only an unimportant influence on the helm, the need is the greater for independent workers to guide public opinion in a definite direction. In 1879 Miss Nightingale thought that her work as an Indian Reformer had failed; but she is entitled to an honourable place among the company of clear thinkers who prepared public opinion for the era of Indian reform which was inaugurated during Lord Ripon's Viceroyalty, and whose persistent advocacy helped to produce at last “the requisite convergence” of opinion in favour of Irrigation as the best, if not the only or all-sufficient, preventive of famine. The “fanaticism,” which she shared with Sir Arthur Cotton, is not now so “visionary” as it once seemed. “Lord Napier,” she wrote,[181] “calls Sir Arthur Cotton a splendid madman. And so he is. But all these must be splendid madmen who initiate any great thing, any great work, which does not recommend itself to the present knowledge, or ignorance, of minds which do not see so far as the splendid madmen of this age, who will be sensible men to the next age and perhaps a little in arrear to the age after that.”




Life made strait
On purpose to make sweet the life at large.


“You live,” said Lord Napier and Ettrick, in calling upon Miss Nightingale one day, “between a Palace and a Park, and have one of the best views in London.” A pilgrim who makes his way to No. 10 South Street and looks up to the tall, unpretentious house, now marked by a tablet recording the residence of Florence Nightingale in it, will not see the Palace, and may wonder how she can have had any view at all. The principal rooms, however, are at the back of the house, and on the upper floors command a view of the Park, across the grounds of Dorchester House—the finest of London's Italian “palaces.” Miss Nightingale was fond of the view, especially in spring mornings, but in the afternoons she moralized her landscape. In a letter to her father from South Street she quoted Samson Agonistes: “Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves. Since I have lived looking on the Park, and seen those people making their trivial round, or rather their treadmill round, blind slaves to it, I have scarce ever had that line out of my head. It will be a material alleviation to me if I have to spend September in London that the ‘mill’ is gone. Also, tho' my whole life is laid out to secure it against interruptions, no one could believe how much it is interrupted. And September diminishes this. The beggars are out of town.” How strict was Miss Nightingale's rule against interruption, even from her best friends, is shown amusingly in some notes of this date from Lady Ashburton and her daughter. “I wish,”[301] wrote Lady Ashburton, “that you would let me sit like a poor old rat in the corner, while you are at dinner; it is much wholesomer not to eat in solitude; but I know I shan't get in, so I can only leave this at the door.” “Mother bids me add a P.S. to my letter and ask with her dear love if you could see her any time to-day; she will talk through the keyhole and not detain you five minutes.”

“The nicest little house in London,” No. 10 was called by Lady Verney, whose own house was only a few doors off. The proximity did not altogether facilitate Florence's measures for security against interruption. There was underlying affection between the sisters, but at times each was acutely conscious of the other's shortcomings. Also each thought that the proximity was more valuable to the other than to herself. No. 10 had been taken by Mr. Nightingale on the advice of Sir Harry and Lady Verney, who thought it would be well for Florence to be near them. Florence, on her part, felt that she was often very useful to her sister. Their common friend, Madame Mohl, was sometimes in perplexity to decide which sister's hospitality to accept. “Go to the Verneys, if you prefer,” wrote Florence on one occasion; “but we shall have to do for you all the same. You know what her housekeeping is. We shall have to send in clean sheets, and food, and scrub down the floors.” In one respect, the proximity of the two houses was certainly convenient to Florence. Sir Harry and Lady Verney took a willing share, as we shall hear presently, in the entertainment of Florence's nursing friends; and Sir Harry, the chairman of the Council of her Training School, was within easy call. She was not, however, accessible at all times in person, either to her sister or to her brother-in-law, any more than to others; much of the communication between them was by letter or message. In later years, however, a morning visit from Sir Harry was part of the day's routine. When still in full health, he was one of her chief links with the great world, bringing her its news and carrying out her behests with pride and alacrity. He was her senior by nineteen years, and he lived to be ninety-three. In his old age one of his great consolations was a morning call upon his sister-in-law, during which they[302] read together in some religious book of his choosing. He was of the old evangelical school, but in such matters except in opinion they did not disagree.


Miss Nightingale's manner of life made her messenger an important member of the South Street staff. She had taken a great and liberal interest in the Corps of Commissionaires established in 1859, and a Commissionaire was in her regular service, acting both as Cerberus and Mercury. Miss Nightingale's messenger must have been a familiar figure, with his notes for Dr. Sutherland, at the War Office, and, for the Matron, at St. Thomas's Hospital. For the rest, Miss Nightingale kept a staff of maidservants. Her own particular maid for many years was Temperance Hatcher; but at the time with which we are now concerned she had married one of Miss Nightingale's Crimean protégés, Peter Grillage,[182] who for some years had been a manservant at Embley. Miss Nightingale was much attached to this exemplary pair, constantly sent presents to them and their children, corresponded with them almost to the end of her life, and remembered them in her Will. At an earlier date Mr. Jowett in letters written after visits to Miss Nightingale—letters known as “roofers” by “the younger gown”—refers gratefully to the care of neat-handed Temperance. Miss Nightingale took infinite pains in the selection of her maids. Kind Mrs. Sutherland did much of the work in this sort for her, and when she was away in the country Mrs. Sutherland was often asked to keep an eye on South Street. Miss Nightingale's love of method and precision, her fondness for having everything in black and white, appear in many a formidable schedule of duties and requirements which she drew up for the information of applicants. Perhaps these had the effect of weeding out the unfit; for, with some exceptions, Miss Nightingale was well served: as was meet and right, for good mistresses make good servants, and she was solicitous of their comfort and welfare. She was an excellent housekeeper; and here again she[303] brought into play the methodical and critical habits which she had practised in larger spheres. I have seen a book in which a young cook entered the day's menu and, on the following morning, the mistress wrote comments on each course—for the most part kindly and encouraging, but sometimes trenchant; as in this note upon stewed cutlets, “Why was the glue-pot used?”; or this upon a dish of minced veal, “Meat hard, and remember that mincing makes hard meat harder.” Miss Nightingale was a small, though delicate, eater; it was for her visitors that she took most pains. Cakes of different kinds, fresh eggs, and coffee used to be sent regularly to St. Thomas's Hospital, to two wards every week; and meat soufflées and jelly were sent weekly to two invalids at Lea Hurst and one at Liverpool. If a nursing friend was coming to South Street, who was likely to want “feeding up,” or, suffering from overwork, would require to have her appetite coaxed, Miss Nightingale would draw up the menu herself, and write out her own recipes for particular dishes. She had not served in the East with the great Soyer in vain. Her father, after his first visit to South Street, pronounced “Florence's maids and dinner perfect”; and the Crown Princess, going down to lunch by herself after seeing Miss Nightingale, sent word that the luncheon was “a work of art.”


Of Miss Nightingale as a hostess, and of the pleasures of South Street to her nursing visitors, one of her pupils who was often invited gives this account:—“Early tea, if you would accept it, was brought to you; and following close upon the housemaid, came Miss Nightingale's own maid to inquire how you had slept; and then to ask if you had any plans for the day or would like any visitor invited to lunch or otherwise. When this had been ascertained there came, by note or message, proposals for the vacant time; and an hour was appointed for your visit to her: that is, for the visit in chief, for you might have other glimpses of her during the day. She was always on the look-out to make your visit not only restful and restoring by all manner of material[304] comfort, but to make it interesting and brightening as well. If the Verneys were in residence at No. 4, Miss Nightingale laid them under contribution for our entertainment, and right kindly did they both respond. Sometimes the guest went there to dinner, dining alone with Sir Harry and spending the time before and after with Lady Verney, then in some degree an invalid, in the drawing-room. The conversation there was amusing, relating to a world not centred in hospitals, for Sir Harry loved to talk of his early days in France and Spain. Lady Verney would sometimes take you driving with her, and as she was of the great world you were likely to have a peep at its attractions. Perhaps the carriage would be stopped while she chatted with Dean Stanley; or it would pause to allow of cards being left at some great house. Then Lady Verney would turn and tease her guest from the hospital about coming to town in the season and leaving cards at the French Embassy. Or Sir Harry would include you in his party, going to visit Miss Octavia Hill in her London Courts, and houses not at all resembling the Embassy. Or he would take you to the House of Commons when the Irish members were lively, and you would see Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Trevelyan and Mr. Parnell, and have an exciting story to bring home to the Chief. Or it might be that you were taken to a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society where Stanley, surrounded by Dr. Moffat, Sir Samuel Baker, and other great travellers, was telling a crowded audience amid breathless silence how he crossed the Dark Continent.

But these pleasures which Miss Nightingale lavished on her workers and in which she shared only by sympathy, were not the event of the day to her visitor. The chief privilege was always the interview with herself. It was usually arranged to begin at half-past four and often lasted through several hours; sometimes with a short interval. At times Miss Nightingale was well enough to come down to the drawing-room and rest on a couch there while she received her guests. Couch or bed was always strewn with letters and papers, and a pencil was ever at hand. It was cheerful to find her on the couch, relieved from the imprisonment of the bed. She was dressed then in soft black silk[305] with a shawl over her feet; always the transparent white kerchief laid over her hair and tied under the chin. [The ‘transparent white kerchief’ was an exquisite little curtain of fine net, edged with real lace, often very fine; for Miss Nightingale was of the old-fashioned persuasion that a gentlewoman cannot wear imitation lace. Some of her lace was Buckinghamshire, made in cottages near Claydon.] Whether sad or glad, there was a bright smile of welcome. Once or twice I found her with her Persian kittens about, but they were soon dismissed. If you had come only for the interview on business, that might occupy all the time; though even on such occasions, business might be dispatched in time for other pleasant talk. But if you were staying in the house, though business was discussed and counsel given, a wide range was allowed to other conversation. Naturally you gave her an account of the day's doings; she entered into them with zest and was led on to other subjects. Sometimes she would speak of India and the Ryots; sometimes of Egypt and the Fellaheen; it was rare for her to touch upon the Crimean episode: if she did so, it was generally to speak with affectionate remembrance of Mrs. Bracebridge. Miss Nightingale encouraged her pupils to speak at these interviews, and it was a common matter of self-reproach with me that whereas I went desirous and resolved to listen, I had occupied too much of the time talking. However it was perhaps her design and gave her the best opportunities of helping her pupils. She listened to all one said with an open mind and made much of any point of which she approved. But now and again she flashed out a dissent, in a tone of maternal authority, and gave you a forcible exposition from the point of view of her powerful intellect and wide outlook. She was enthusiastic, but she was not a prey to illusions. Sometimes when there was not a clear contradiction, there was a quiet questioning. Indeed many of her lessons were given in the form of questions. Among our happiest subjects of conversation were the children in the hospitals. Miss Nightingale seemed never to weary of hearing of them; of their sufferings, their home circumstances, their pathetic knowledge of life, their heroic patience, their quaint sayings, their brave fun in intervals[306] of ease, their interest in one another, their thousand sweetnesses. Not the less was her sympathy given to the older patients, while the Nurses had, if possible, a still larger place in her regard.”

see caption

Florence Nightingale in her room in South Street
from a photograph by Miss Bosanquet, 1906


The room in which these treasured interviews took place was either the drawing-room, or Miss Nightingale's bedroom on the second floor—both at the back of the house. The bedroom had a crescent-shaped outer wall with pleasant French windows and flower-balconies. The bed stood between the windows and the door, with its foot facing the fireplace, and behind the bed was a long shelf conveniently placed for books and papers. There were always flowers in the room. Those in pots on a stand were provided by Mr. Rathbone (as already related) until his death; and a box of cut flowers was sent every week from Melchet Court by Lady Ashburton. The walls were white and there were no blinds or curtains; the room seemed full of light and flowers. What impressed visitors was the exquisite cleanliness and daintiness of all the appointments which served as the frame to their mistress. “It always seemed a beautiful room,” says one visitor, “but there was very little in it beside the necessary furniture, which was neat, but cheap and simple, except a few pieces which had come from Embley and Lea Hurst. A large arm-chair, in which Miss Nightingale would sometimes sit, stood between two of the three windows. There were few pictures on the walls—a photograph of Lord Lawrence's portrait, a water-colour of an Egyptian sunset, and one or two other gifts. The two things of most meaning were a long chromolithograph of ‘the ground about Sebastopol,’ as she called it in her Will[183]—this was opposite her on the right; and, on the mantelpiece, exactly facing her bed, a framed chromolithographed text, ‘It is I. Be not afraid.’ The drawing-room was loftier and more severe, and on the walls were some fine engravings and photographs of the Sistine ceiling. There were many bookcases in the drawing-room, the back drawing-room, and[307] the dining-room, mostly full of Blue-books. As a little girl, I spent many hours in the dining-room while my mother was upstairs, and can bear witness that except Blue-books the only reading was The Ring and the Book.”

Occasionally Miss Nightingale would be seen standing or moving about in her room; what was then remarked was the grace and dignity of her bearing, though the “willowy figure” which distinguished her in earlier years had now become large. More often she received her visitors in bed or on her couch. What they then observed was the head, the face, the hands. Her head, in girlhood and early womanhood, had been remarked as small. Possibly it had grown somewhat, and something must be put down to the increased size of the face as affecting the appearance; but at any rate her head in later years was certainly large. An Army Surgeon who visited Miss Nightingale frequently in the 'eighties and 'nineties tells me that he was always struck by the massiveness of the head, comparable, he thought, to Mr. Gladstone's. There was an unusually fine rounded form of the fore-part of the head just above where the hair begins. The eyes were not specially remarkable, though there was a suggestion of intellectual keenness in them. The nose was fine and rather prominent; the mouth, small and firm. The hands were small and refined. Every one who saw her felt that he was in the presence of a woman of personality—of marked character, energy, and capacity. As her visitor entered, Miss Nightingale would bend forward from her bed or couch with a smile of welcome; the visitor would be invited to an easy chair beside her, and talk would begin.

In her youth Miss Nightingale was a brilliant talker, as witnesses cited in an earlier chapter have told us. In later years, too, she had flashes of brilliance. Madame Mohl, whose standard was high, wrote to her husband from Lea Hurst in 1873: “Mr. Jowett spent three days here. He is a man of mind; I think he would suit you. He is very fond of Flo, which also would suit you. She is here, and her conversation is most nourishing. I would give a great deal for you to be here to enjoy it. She is really eloquent. Yesterday she quite surprised me.”[184] But for the most part[308] Miss Nightingale's talk was rather earnest, inquiring, sometimes searching, than sparkling or eloquent. “She is worse than a Royal Commission to answer,” said Colonel Yule; “and, in the most gracious, charming manner possible, immediately finds out all I don't know.”[185] Younger visitors sometimes felt in awe of her; she could flash out a searching question upon a rash generalization as formidably as Mr. Gladstone himself. She was interested in everything except what was trivial. Her intellectual vitality was remarkable; visitors who knew nothing of her special interests or pursuits were yet delighted by the stimulating freshness of her talk. She liked to keep herself au courant with all that was going on in the political and learned worlds. The letters to her from more than one Indian Viceroy show that the pleasant gossip from the lobbies or the Universities, with which she relieved her discourses on drains, was keenly appreciated. If the visitor talked of matters which appealed to her, she was instantly curious of detail. “Yes,” she would say, leaning forward, “and what about this or that? and have you thought of doing so and so?” Or if some difficulty were propounded, “I wonder if I could help you at all? The person to speak to is Mr. A. or Mr. B. Do you think that he would be so good as to come and see me?” “I am sure he would feel honoured.” “Then do you think I might write to him? or you will ask him? Very well, then we will see what can be done.” And so a new network of helpful influence would be made. To younger visitors—a London clergyman, it may be, or a student, or a budding official—she would show something of the maternal solicitude that was conspicuous in her intercourse with nursing “daughters.” “But you are not looking well to-day. You have been sitting up too late? Yes? Then you must promise me to take better care of yourself.” Or, “Are you careful to take regular meals? No? Then you must let an old nurse give you some good advice.” The humour which was characteristic of Miss Nightingale came more readily perhaps to her pen than to her tongue; but she always enjoyed a[309] joke in conversation—even, as we have heard already from one of her nursing friends, at her own expense. Sometimes she was teasing. A High Church young lady once went to South Street. She was delighted with her interview, but Miss Nightingale, she said, “laughed at High Church curates a good deal: she said they had no foreheads.” She sometimes quizzed even her greatest friends. She used to talk with humorous indignation of Mr. Jowett's God as a “man-jelly,” in contrast with the future life of work which she looked forward to.

It was in the bedroom above described, or in the smaller room in front with which it communicated, that the greater part of Miss Nightingale's life for forty-five years was passed. She seldom went out of doors in London. It was believed that occasionally, at times when her heart and nerves were giving her less than the usual sense of weakness, she went out on foot into the Park; but the belief was only whispered: it was a point of honour amongst her circle to respect her house-ridden seclusion. The secret may now be divulged, on the authority of many notes from Sir Harry Verney, that he lured her out now and then for a morning drive and stroll in the Park, especially in rhododendron-time, “to remind her of Embley,” as aforesaid. Miss Nightingale, except in the few travel-years of her youth, had little enjoyment from nature in its grander or larger aspects, but she knew how to find pleasure in the commoner sights and sounds; in flowers and birds, and in London skies. There was a tree in the garden of Dorchester House where the birds used to gather, and from which they flew to be fed at Miss Nightingale's window. She had studied the dietary of birds as carefully as of hospital patients, and imparted the rudiments of such lore to the “Dicky-Bird Society.”[186] In the country she liked to have a view from her bedroom of trees and flowers, and often in the early morning watches she wrote down her observations. Her balcony at Lea Hurst gave her a great deal of pleasure. It is large, being the top of the drawing-room bow; you see a wide stretch of sky from it, and it commands the view described by Mrs. Gaskell.[187] At Claydon she had[310] her pet birds and squirrels, and used to write about them to Sir Harry's grandchildren. She took a great interest in elementary education, and insisted almost as much upon the importance of simple nature studies as upon that of physical training. “On very fine noondays in London,” she wrote (Dec. 1888), “when there is nearly as much light as there is in a country dusk, the storm-like effects of the sun peeping out are more like the light streaming from the Glory in Heaven of the old Italian Masters than anything I know. And I wonder whether the poor people see it. And in old days when I walked out of doors, the murky effect at the end of the perspective of a long dull street running E. and W. was a real peep into heaven. I should teach these things in Board Schools to children condemned to live their lives in the streets of London, as I would teach the botany of leaves and trees and flowers to country children.” Cheap popular books were much wanted giving account of “the habits, structure, and characters (what they are about, not classification) of plants as living beings”; and of birds treated in like fashion, and not from the point of view of ornithological classification. “I had a lovely little popular book with woodcuts, published in Calcutta,” she wrote,[188] “on the plants of Bengal. The author, an Englishman, offered me to write one on English plants in the same fashion; but one of the most popular and enterprising of all our publishers refused on the ground that it would not tell in Board School examinations and therefore would not pay.”


During the years following her father's death (1874), Miss Nightingale devoted much time to the society of her mother, and this took her for a considerable part of each year out of London. In 1874 she and her mother spent a month at Claydon (Aug.–Sept.), and then two months at Lea Hurst. In 1875 the experiment was tried of taking a house at Upper Norwood, and there Miss Nightingale lived[311] with her mother for some weeks (June–July). “I am out of humanity's reach,” wrote Florence to Madame Mohl (June 18): “in a red villa like a monster lobster: a place which has no raison d'être except the raison d'être of lobsters or crabs—viz. to go backward and to feed and be fed upon. Stranger vicissitudes than mine in life few men have had—vicissitudes from slavery to power, and from power to slavery again. It does not seem like a vicissitude: a red villa at Norwood: yet it is the strangest I yet have had. It is the only time for 22 years that my work has not been the first cause for where I should live and how I should live. Here it is the last. It is the caricature of a life.” The lobster-like villa was, however, soon given up. Mrs. Nightingale longed to be taken to her home—though, strictly, hers no longer, and from July to October she and Florence were at Lea Hurst. The year's routine now became fixed. The care of Mrs. Nightingale in London was undertaken by her nephew, Mr. Shore Smith, and his wife. She lived with them in their house in York Place, and from July or August in each year to November or December the Shore Smith family, with Mrs. Nightingale and her companion, moved to Lea Hurst, and there also Florence went—sometimes going to Lea Hurst before the others arrived, and sometimes staying there when they were absent.[189] Mr. Shore Smith was “more than son and daughter to her,” Mrs. Nightingale said; and Florence, during her residence at Lea Hurst, devoted a stated number of hours each day—generally two or three in the morning—to companionship with her mother. In the country, as in South Street, Miss Nightingale constantly had nursing friends to stay with her. “At Lea Hurst,” writes the friend already quoted, “she was as good to us as in London. I remember being there once with another of her pupils, and she told us that the rooms assigned to us had been the nurseries of her childhood. Long drives were contrived for us; luncheon was packed in the waggonette, and excursions were mapped out. During our visit Mr. Jowett came for a few days; he was very[312] pleasant to us and full of kindness. I remember his speaking of a quality in our hostess which always struck us; I mean the thoroughness in all details of her hospitality, even to putting flowers in our rooms, gathered by herself in the garden. Miss Nightingale thought one of us was tired, and said she was not to get up too early in the morning. Mr. Jowett reminded us in this connection of the man who made a virtue of always rising very early and who was ‘conceited all the morning and cross all the afternoon.’”

At Lea Hurst, during these years, Miss Nightingale devoted herself to her poorer neighbours, and threw into the task the thoroughness and system which characterized all her doings. She took a part in establishing a village coffee-room and a village library, and in organizing mothers' meetings. She gave doles to all deserving families. The dossiers which she kept of their characters and circumstances were as careful as those referring to the Nightingale Probationers. There are sheets and sheets amongst her papers, on which she entered the quantities of each kind of provision supplied to each family, as elaborate as the purveying accounts which she kept at Scutari. She was a sort of National Health Insurance scheme (non-contributory) for the neighbourhood; for she employed a doctor to attend the sick and infirm at her expense, and to report fully to her on all the cases. There are fifty letters from him in this sort during a single year, and as many of a like kind from the village schoolmaster, whom she commissioned to give extra tuition to promising pupils. There were those who thought that Miss Nightingale wasted on these rustic cares energies that might swell the great wave of the world. Among the number was her old friend, Madame Mohl. “Now, my own Flo,” she wrote (Oct. 16, 1879), “you believe me, I am sure, to love you truly; therefore you will bear what I say, and also you believe me to have common sense: you can't help believing it, I defy you! Now I declare that if you don't leave that absurd place, Lea Hurst, immediately, you must be a little insane—partially, not entirely; and that if you saw another person knowingly risking a life that might be useful dans les grandes choses d'ensemble to potter after sick individuals, and if you were[313] in a lucid moment you would say, ‘That person is not quite sane or she has not the strength of will to follow her judgment in her actions.’” Miss Nightingale was not well pleased by this letter. She felt something of the sort herself; but it is one thing to doubt our own wisdom, and quite another to hear it doubted even by our oldest friends. Miss Nightingale replied that she was doing her duty, which was a duty of affection, to her mother, and Madame Mohl, with ready tact, explained her letter away by saying that the real reason of it was only a selfish impatience to see her dear “Flochen” in London.

Miss Nightingale's mother was now very old; her mind was barely coherent; and it would perhaps have been much the same to her if Florence had not been by her side. Yet the actual presence was a great comfort; and Miss Nightingale, whose calls in earlier life had estranged her somewhat from her mother, was the more anxious to be with her now. There were gleams of brightness in the mother's manner which touched the daughter deeply. “Her mind,” she afterwards wrote, “was like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel—darkened, blotted, effaced, and with great gaps; but if you looked and looked and accustomed your eye to the dimness and the broken lights, there were the noble forms transparent through the darkness.”[190] Mother and daughter had much converse on spiritual things. At other times, pride and pleasure in her famous daughter were mixed in the mother's mind with the regrets of earlier years. “Where is Florence?” she once asked, in the daughter's absence; “is she still in her hospital? I suppose she will never marry now.” She loved to have Longfellow's poem read to her; “it is all true,” she would say, “all real.” When Florence came, the mother loved her presence dearly. “Who are you? Oh, yes, I see you are Florence. Stay with me. Do not leave me. It makes me so happy to see you sitting by me. You come down to teach us to love; but you have so much that is important to do, you must not stay with me.” “Oh, are you my dearest Florence? I ought to kiss your hand, I am sure.” The daughter's wit cheered her mother. “You have a right to laugh,” she[314] said; “so few of us have. You are so good—so much better than the rest of us. You do me so much good.”

Something of the same impression was made by Miss Nightingale upon all who visited her, whether at Lea Hurst or in her upper room at South Street. She was often lonely and despondent, and accounted herself, as we have heard, the weakest of human vessels, the lowest of God's servants. To those who knew her well, she was a tower of strength. Mr. Jowett used to say that he never saw Miss Nightingale or received a letter from her without feeling strengthened for his duties. The thought of her working in solitude was constantly with him. “I think no day passes,” he wrote to her, “in which I do not think of you and your work with pride and affection.” If men admired Miss Nightingale, women worshipped her. To many a devoted woman, who had learnt from her example and who was inspired by her friendship, she was “My Mistress and Queen,” or “My Hero Saint.” Women of the great world laid at her feet an almost equal adoration, and young girls had something of the same feeling. “I used at first to be shy with her,” says one of them, “but when I was older and talked more freely, I found her the most charming person to talk to. She always seemed interested and glad to see one. I always used to come away with a sort of buoyant feeling. She seemed to raise one into a different atmosphere.” “I shall ever remember my visit to you,” wrote her “ever affectionate Luise” (the Grand Duchess of Baden) in 1879, “as one of those moments coming directly out of God's hand and leading men's hearts up to Him in thankfulness. It belongs to those things which are in themselves a sanctuary.”[191] And Lady Ashburton, who still came sometimes to see the friend of earlier days, her “Beloved Zoë,” wrote: “I like to think of you in your tower—so high up above us all”; and, again, “I am humbled in the dust when I think of what you say of me—poor, wretched, profitableless me, and yourself the guiding-star to so many of our lives.”



The friends to whom Miss Nightingale wrote most regularly on matters other than business, and in whose visits she took the greatest intellectual pleasure, were, next to Mr. Jowett, Monsieur and Madame Mohl. Her letters to them show some of her more general interests:—

(To M. Mohl.) Feb. 16 [1868].… I see Mad. Blanchecotte is publishing her Impressions de Femme—what is that? Do men publish their Impressions d'Homme? I think it is a pity that women should always look upon themselves (and men look upon them) as a great curiosity—a peculiar strange race, like the Aztecs; or rather like Dr. Howe's Idiots, whom, after the “unremitting exertions of two years,” he “actually taught to eat with a spoon.”

(To M. Mohl.) South St., Nov. 24 [1872].… Insensible, cruel, aggravating man! you break off just where I want to hear. The only thing that amuses me is Papal Infallibility. The only thing that interests me not painfully (out of my Chaos)—always excepting Livingstone, East African Slave-trade, Central African exploration—is Prussian Politics. Not that I suppose you to be very well satisfied with them, but I want to know about the doings—Bismarck, Old Catholics, Infallibilists—this extraordinary conflict between the old man at Rome and the Junker-Devil-statesman, Bismarck; also about the struggle with the Upper House and the de-feudalizing Bill. I am athirst to know your mind about these things.… Have you seen Stanley's How I found Livingstone? I have desired the publisher to send you a copy. It is, without exception, the very worst book on the very best subject I ever saw in all my life.… Still I can't help devouring the book to the end, though it tells little more of Livingstone than what Livingstone in the despatches has told himself already. But then Stanley and his newspaper have discovered and relieved Livingstone, when all our Government, all our Societies, all our Subscriptions, all the Queen's men could not set Livingstone up again!… Quetelet has sent me his last books—Anthropométrie and Physique Sociale—with a charming letter. I answered by a violent and vehement exhortation to him to prepare his second edition at once—the first (1869) of the Physique Sociale being entirely exhausted.[192] Did I tell you that when Mr. Jowett was[316] elected chairman for the subjects of Final Examination at Oxford, I insisted on Social Physics being one?

(To Madame Mohl.) South St., Dec. 19 [1873].… You asked me what Mill's Autobiography was like: and as it is a book impossible to describe, I send it to you. I think it almost the most curious and interesting of modern books I ever read; but curious just as much for its nonsense as for its sense. I should think the account he gives of his intellectual and moral growth from the age of three quite unique: quite as singular as if a man were able to describe all his anatomy and physiology in a state of growth from the time he was three. But quite, quite as extraordinary as this is his own stupidity in not seeing that very many of his moral and intellectual, and especially of his religious, opinions were fixed inalterably for him by the process he underwent, so that all his reasoning afterwards upon them was unreasoning: fixed as much beyond his power to change, or even to see that a change was desirable or possible, as the eyes of a man who becomes stone-blind in his youth, or the right arm of a man who is paralysed on that side, or &c., &c., &c. He has written me pages and pages, which I never could understand—from a man so able—till I read his Autobiography: that—there being Laws was no proof of there being a Law-giver; that—if evil were to produce good, there ought to be more of it! Then, you see he says in his book that his wife was to be applauded, because she had thrown aside the “monstrous superstition” that this world could be made on the best possible design for perfecting Good thro' Evil!… And I still think the Autobiography, its high tone, its disinterested nobility of feeling and love of mankind, one of the most inspiring (modern) books I know. But then please to remember: when Mill left the India Office he might most materially have helped all my Sanitary Commissions, Irrigation and Civilizing Schemes for India. He did nothing. He was quite incapable of understanding anything but schemes on paper, correspondence, the literary Office aspect in short, for India. As for that jargon about the “Inspiration” coming from “woman,” I really am incapable of conceiving its meaning: if it has any at all. I am sure that my part in Administration has been the very reverse of “Inspiration”: it has been the fruit of dogged work, of hard experience and observation, such as few men have undergone: correcting by close detail work the errors of men which came from what I suppose is called their “inspiration”: what I should call their Theory without Practical knowledge or patient personal experience.

(To Madame Mohl.) South St., Feb. 27 [1875].… Do read Pascal's Provinciales. There is nothing like it in the[317] world; it is as witty as Molière; it is as closely reasoned as Aristotle; it has a style transparent like Plato. You said you had not read it. I have a great mind to send it you. I read it every year (as Lord Morpeth said he did Miss Austen's novels) for the pure pleasure it gives my imagination. Voltaire said, did he not? that tho' Pascal was “fou,” he fixed the language.

Nothing that she read in these years pleased her more than Mr. John Morley's fine address on “Popular Culture,” now included in his Miscellanies, which first appeared in the Fortnightly Review for November 1876. She wrote to him to express her grateful admiration and to ask if she might be allowed to distribute copies of the paper. Mr. Morley, who had already arranged for a cheap reprint, sent her several copies.

In January 1876 came the death of M. Mohl—to Madame Mohl an irreparable loss; she was never the same woman after it; to Miss Nightingale also a heavy loss. “I am grieved to see,” wrote Mr. Jowett to her (Jan. 7), “that you have lost a friend, one of the best and truest you ever had. His death must bring back many old recollections. Your father told me of his fetching you away from the Convent when you were ill, and, as he thought, saving your life.” But it was not only that his death revived affectionate recollections. M. Mohl had a great admiration for Miss Nightingale's intellectual powers. He loved to talk and correspond with her on politics, literature, and philosophy, and she regarded his studies in Eastern religion as a real contribution to “theodikë,” one of her principal preoccupations.

Miss Nightingale lost another friend a few weeks later, whose death greatly moved her:—

(Dr. E. A. Parkes to Miss Nightingale.) Southampton, March 9 (dictated). Your letter reached me on what must be, I believe, my deathbed. Perhaps before you receive this I shall be summoned to my account. For what you say I thank and bless you. About two months hence the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge will publish a little book on “the personal care of health.” A copy will be sent to you. I had small space, only 26 pages, but I put in as much sanitary information as I could, of a very simple kind. I hope it may be a little useful to you. It is addressed entirely to the poor. And now thank[318] you and bless you for all the support you have always given me. Believe me, very gratefully, (signed) E. A. Parkes.

(Miss Nightingale to Dr. H. W. Acland.) 35 South Street, March 17 [1876]. The death of our dear friend, Dr. Parkes, fills me with grief: and also with anxiety for the future of the Army Medical School at Netley. He was a man of most rare modesty: of singular gifts. His influence at the School—there was not a man who did not leave the better for having been under him—is irreplaceable. But the knowledge and instruction he has diffused from the School as a centre has extended and will extend wherever the English language is spoken, and beyond. Dr. Parkes died like a true Christian hero “at his post,” and with the simplicity of one. I think I have never known such disinterestedness, such self-abnegation, such forgetfulness of self. His death was like a resurrection. When he was dying, he dictated letters or gave messages to everybody: all about what ought to be done for the School, for the spread of hygienic knowledge, for other useful and Army purposes: none about himself.… On March 9, when it was evident he could not last many days, he commended the School to Sir William Jenner and dictated a letter to me about hygienic interests, merely saying of himself that he might be “summoned to his last account” before I received it. On March 13 he rallied. I was allowed to send down a Trained Nurse. On March 15 he died.… Let us, as he went to the sacrifice of himself (he was only 56) with joy and praise—as the heroes of old—so part with him. But let us try to save what he would have saved.…

The Professors at the Army Medical School had written to Miss Nightingale in alarm at a report in the newspapers that the institution was once more threatened. She begged Dr. Acland, who was a friend of the War Secretary (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), to do what he could; and meanwhile she took direct action herself. She drew up for Mr. Hardy, as she had done years before for Mr. Cardwell, the case for the defence of the School; she added personal entreaties of her own; and she sent Sir Harry Verney to present the documents to the minister in person. “Mr. Hardy listened attentively while I read your papers,” reported Sir Harry. “I emphasised passages underlined by you, indeed showing him your marks and initials. He said that he had not decided the matter, and I replied, ‘And Miss Nightingale wants to get hold of you before you do.’ I shall congratulate you most earnestly, my dearest Florence, if your representations[319] save the School, for I know that such success cheers you more than anything else.” Three weeks later, the minister returned the papers to Sir Harry, announced that the School would not be touched, and said he might tell Miss Nightingale that he would make the appointments she had suggested.

Some unfinished letters from M. Mohl, found in his blotter after his death, were sent to Miss Nightingale by Madame Mohl, who leaned much on her “Flochen's” sympathy in her loss:—

(To Madame Mohl.) Lea Hurst, August 6 [1876]. Dearest very Dearest Friend—Indeed I do think I was worthy of him if always thinking of him, rejoicing in his progress in perfection and (formerly) grieving with his troubles and cares (but now he has none, now he is always making glorious progress, else this world is a nonsense), made me so. But why do you distress yourself (your loss is great enough, immeasurable, irreparable, for this world) with saying such things about not having made the most of him while you had him? He would not have said so. You found him a melancholy man: you made him a happy one. You gave zest to his life: all that it wanted. He always felt this himself: he could not bear to be without you. O thank God and say (like the Lord of Ossory about his son): I had rather have my dead son than any one else's living one. Who has been so blest as you? Where will you find so perfect a man? And you felt it, I know you did. And he felt your feeling it.… For M. Mohl's glorious life on earth I thank God: but I thank Him yet more, because this was only a beginning of life infinitely more glorious—as Milton says: “death, called life, which us from life doth sever.” Fare you well. May God be with us all. Your old Flo. It is 20 years to-day since I came back from the Crimea. It is 15 since I lost Sidney Herbert.

(To the same.) South St., Feb. 7 [1878]. Dearest Friend, ever Dearest—Indeed I do: I think daily and nightly of him and of you: the world is darker every year to me, and darker without him: for it seems as if a great light were gone out of it. And the people who survive seem so weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable compared with those I knew once, loved once.… No: we shan't give a doit to help the Turks. What! crush all those struggling young peoples, Sclav and Greek, back under the hideous massacres and oppression and corruption of the Turk? We could not if we would. I don't feel very hopeful: for the worst Eurasian Government, we are allowing the worst European Government to substitute itself. Turkey was falling to pieces[320] anyhow by its own bad weight; and we should not have let Russia act alone in the coming freedom. May God give liberty to the Christian provinces to work out their own salvation!

Miss Nightingale's interest in the Eastern Question, moved by the Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria, had been heightened by her close friendship with Miss Paulina Irby. Of the women friends whom Miss Nightingale saw frequently, and with whom she corresponded regularly, Miss Irby was one of the few who could in any intellectual and spiritual sense be called her equal. Miss Irby was a woman of the highest cultivation, an excellent scholar; a woman of most generous kindliness and simplicity of mind who truly thought no evil.[193] There was a sort of innocence in her that seemed to disperse difficulties of itself, and Miss Nightingale's papers contain references to occasions on which Miss Irby's friendly offices resolved many worries. She was a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale, and Florence had first met her at Embley in 1869. She was one of the many women who revered the name of Florence Nightingale, and she had spent some months at Kaiserswerth. She was enraptured by making the personal acquaintance of her heroine, and was used to say henceforth that any good she was able to do was owing to Miss Nightingale's example and sympathy. The good that Miss Irby did was great; in promoting education among the Sclavonic Christians of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in relieving the distress among orphans and refugees. During the years 1874–79 Miss Irby was often in England, to collect funds and for other purposes connected with her work in the East. Miss Nightingale helped her much therein, and thus became very familiar with some aspects of the Eastern Question. This interest, combined with her detestation of the forward policy on the Indian frontier, formed a link of sympathy with Mr. Gladstone.



Was Miss Nightingale's life happy or unhappy? Her sister used to say to her, thinking of her many political acquaintances: “You lead such an interesting life.” Mr. Jowett told her that her life was a blessed one, and that she ought so to think it. He always sent her a New Year's letter, and on the last day of 1879 he wrote to her thus:—

(Benjamin Jowett to Miss Nightingale.) I cannot let the new year begin without sending my best and kindest wishes for you and for your work: I can only desire that you should go on as you are doing, in your own way. Lessening human suffering and speaking for those who cannot make their voices heard, with less of suffering to yourself, if this, as I fear, be not a necessary condition of the life you have chosen. There was a great deal of romantic feeling about you 23 years ago when you came home from the Crimea (I really believe that you might have been a Duchess if you had played your cards better!). And now you work on in silence, and nobody knows how many lives are saved by your nurses in hospitals (you have introduced a new era in nursing); how many thousand soldiers who would have fallen victims to bad air, bad water, bad drainage and ventilation, are now alive owing to your forethought and diligence; how many natives of India (they might be counted probably by hundreds of thousands) in this generation and in generations to come have been preserved from famine and oppression and the load of debt by the energy of a sick lady who can scarcely rise from her bed. The world does not know all this or think about it. But I know it and often think about it, and I want you to, so that in the later years of your course you may see (with a side of sorrow) what a blessed life yours is and has been. Is there anything which you could do, or would wish to do, other than you are doing? though you are overtaxed and have a feeling of oppression at the load which rests upon you. I think that the romance, too, which is with the past, did a great deal of good. Like Dr. Pusey, you are a Myth in your own life-time. Do you know that there are thousands of girls about the ages of 18 to 23 named after you? As you once said to me “the world has not been unkind.” Everybody has heard of you and has a sweet association with your name. It is about 17 years since we first became friends. How can I thank you properly for all your kindness and sympathy—never failing—when you had so many other things to occupy your mind? I have not been able to do so much as you expected of me, and probably[322] never shall be, though I do not give up ambition. But I have been too much distracted by many things; and not strong enough for the place. I shall go on as quietly and industriously as I can. If I ever do much more, it will be chiefly owing to you: your friendship has strengthened and helped me, and never been a source of the least pain or regret. Farewell. May the later years of your life be clearer and happier and more useful than the earlier! If you will believe it, this may be so.

In Mr. Jowett's example, his friend found strength and help, even as he did in hers. “He offers himself up to Oxford,” she used to say of him with admiration; and she offered up all her powers to the causes she had espoused. There were still to be many years during which she was able to work unceasingly for them. Her life was to be not less useful than before, and perhaps, as increasing years brought greater calm, her life was also clearer. But happiness, as the world accounts it, she neither attained nor desired. She had a friend who was losing his devotion to high ideals, as she thought, in domestic contentment. “O Happiness,” she said of him, “like the bread-tree fruit, what a corrupter and paralyser of human nature thou art!”




I thank God for all He is doing in India through Lord Ripon.—Florence Nightingale (1884).

General Gordon was the bravest of men where God's cause and that of others was concerned, and his courage rose with loneliness. He was the meekest of men where himself only was concerned. You could not say he was the most unselfish of men: he had no self.—Florence Nightingale (1886).

South Street, Feb. 2 [1880]. Dearest—My dear mother fell asleep just after midnight, after much weariness and painfulness. The last three hours were in beautiful peace and all through she had been able to listen to and to repeat her favourite hymns and prayers, and to smile a smile as if she said, ‘I'm dying: it's all right.’ Then she composed her own self to death at 9 last night: folded her hands: closed her own eyes: laid herself down, and in three hours she was gone to a Greater Love than ours.… Do you remember what Ezekiel says: ‘And at eve my wife died: and I did in the morning as I was commanded.’”[194] Miss Nightingale's mother had almost completed her 93rd year. Queen Victoria sent a message of sympathy to which Miss Nightingale replied with particulars of the last hours such as Her Majesty was known to like, and she asked leave to address a letter to the Empress of India on the condition of that country. Permission was granted, and “doing in the morning as she was commanded” Miss Nightingale turned from thoughts of her mother's death to the grievances of the Indian peoples and composed in general terms a plea[324] for their redress. The Queen made no response, but presently she sent a copy of the Life of the Prince Consort. The Life contains much information about the famous Proclamation to the People of India, in which the Queen and the Prince Consort had been personally concerned, and Miss Nightingale made use of the fact when she next had an opportunity of addressing her Sovereign on Indian subjects.

Meanwhile, Miss Nightingale was suffering from nervous collapse, and the doctors ordered sea air. She went for three weeks to the Granville Hotel, Ramsgate, but the change did her little good. “The doctors tell me,” she wrote to Miss Pringle (March 28), “I must be ‘free’ for at least a year ‘from the responsibilities which have been forced upon me’ (and which, they might say, I have so ill fulfilled) and from ‘letters.’ But when is that year to come? I believe, however, I must go away again for a time, if only to work up the arrears of my Indian work, which weigh heavily on my mind.” She went in April for a few weeks to Seaton, where Lady Ashburton had placed Seaforth Lodge at her disposal. She was not to be disturbed, but her hostess came from Melchet for a few days, and had, as she wrote, “the deep joy of communion with my beloved.” In the following month Miss Nightingale spent some days at Claydon, where in subsequent years she often stayed for a longer time, taking much interest in local affairs there. Her sister was now and henceforth an invalid, suffering sadly from rheumatic arthritis. Nothing cheered her so much, said Sir Harry Verney, as her sister's society, and now that Mrs. Nightingale's death made visits to Lea Hurst less imperative they hoped that Florence “would treat Claydon more as a home” than heretofore. She did as she was bidden, and for several years paid an annual visit to Claydon, where “Florence Nightingale's room” is still shown. For the rest, Miss Nightingale's life continued on the old lines,[195] and whether at Claydon or in South Street the Sabbatical year of freedom from responsibilities, letters, interviews, and Blue-books did not come.



In the spring of 1880, Miss Nightingale was intensely interested in the elections. Her dislike of Lord Beaconsfield's policy, her recent intercourse with Mr. Gladstone, her hopes for India, her interest in the Verneys, as well as her own sympathy with liberal ideas and the Liberalism traditional in her family, made her a stout partisan. “I hope, dearest,” she wrote to a nursing friend (March 28), “you care about the elections. You are in the thick of them. Sir Harry with patriotic pluck is in his 79th year fighting a losing battle at Buckingham.[196] But what delights me is that the Liberal side find that the labourers and the working man have waked up during the last 6 years to interests entirely new to them. Then, 6 years ago, we could hardly get a hearing: now men jam themselves into small hot rooms, struggling for standing-room while for 3 hours they listen to political talk. Whether we win or not, such interest will never die.” When the Liberal victory was complete, she was eager, like the rest of the political world, to know who would be Prime Minister, and more anxious than other people (except the few personally concerned) to know who would succeed Lord Lytton as Viceroy of India. Sir Harry Verney sent her the latest rumours from the Row in the morning and from the Clubs in the afternoon. She must have been greatly pleased when Lord Ripon's appointment to India was announced; but curiously there is no note about it, nor any record of a visit from him, nor at this stage any correspondence. They were, however, old friends; and as soon as Lord Ripon set to work in India, correspondence, at once cordial and confidential, began. Advocacy of Lord Ripon's Indian policy was indeed one of the absorbing interests which occupied Miss Nightingale during the years covered in the present chapter. Her other main preoccupation was the state of the Army Medical and Hospital service—a matter which became urgent in connection with the campaigns in South Africa, Egypt, and the Soudan.

These two branches of work now occupied the front; but they did not cause Miss Nightingale to abandon other[326] responsibilities, and the reader must supply a background of the various kinds of work described in earlier chapters. She was still busy with details of Indian sanitation, for the Sanitary Annual was still submitted to her revision. She was still consulted on questions of nursing administration and hospital construction. “They are in difficulties,” wrote Sir Harry Verney (Jan. 30, 1881), in forwarding an application of this kind; “so they appeal to you—the Family Solicitor to whom we all turn when we get into a scrape, but your Family is a large one—the whole human race.” She still filled the part of Lady Bountiful, with more than that lady's usual care for detail, to her poorer neighbours in the country. The Working-Men's Institute at Holloway (near Lea Hurst) referred to her the question whether playing-cards should be admitted. She was in favour of the cards, but a majority of the Committee were against them, and, before giving her opinion, she conducted an inquiry as elaborate and far-searching as if it were a case of cholera. And more assiduously, rather than less, did she devote herself to the affairs of the Nightingale School and its old pupils. There are years at this period during which as many as 400 letters from nurses were preserved in this sort, and there are Sisters to each of whom more than fifty letters were written. She introduced the innovation of sending her probationers to the National Training School of Cookery, and she looked over their notes on the lessons, founding thereon hints to the teachers. The extension of trained nursing in workhouse infirmaries called for more Nightingale nurses. “Yesterday,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (June 30, 1881), “we opened the new Marylebone Infirmary (760 beds). We nurse it with our trained nurses, thank God! I have each of these women to see for three or four hours alone before she begins work.” It was during this period that Miss Nightingale paid her first visit to the new St. Thomas's Hospital. She drove there on January 27, 1882, and inspected the quarters of her Training School and one of the Hospital wards. “Just one week has elapsed,” wrote the Matron (Feb. 4), “since you honoured us with your more than welcome presence, and I cannot go to bed to-night until I have thanked you[327] for all the admiration in which you speak of your Home and the pretty Alexandra Ward. No words of mine can ever express the delight it gave us to welcome you, our dearly loved Chief, to the Home and School which has for more than 20 years borne ‘her honoured name.’” The time was drawing near when pupils of the School were to follow in the footsteps of their Chief and do nursing service in the East.


In April 1880 a notable addition was made to Miss Nightingale's hero friends. General Gordon introduced himself to her in order to introduce his cousin, Mrs. Hawthorn. She was the wife of a Colonel in the Engineers, and devoted herself to good work in military hospitals. She had been painfully impressed by the inefficiency of the orderlies, and had begged General Gordon to “go to Miss Nightingale” in the matter. The character of “Chinese Gordon” was already most sympathetic to Miss Nightingale, and the personal touch now heightened her admiration. She gained at the same time in his cousin a friend to whom she became warmly attached, and who served as eyes and ears for her in a way which enabled her to forward useful reforms. General Gordon's letters appealed strongly to Miss Nightingale as those of a kindred soul:—

(General Gordon to Miss Nightingale.) April 22 [1880]. In these days when so much is talked of the prestige of England, &c., &c. I cannot help feeling a bitter sentiment when one considers how little we care for those near and how we profess to care for those afar off. You wrote some kind words on your card when I called, and I am much obliged for them, but I do not think that I have done 1/20 part or suffered anything like the nurse of a hospital who, forgotten by the world, drudges on in obscurity. (April 29.) I do not know the details myself. I took up the paper on the entreaties of my cousin, feeling sure that the truest way to gain recruits to our army would be by so remedying the defects and alleviating the sufferings of soldiers that universally should it be acknowledged that the soldier is cared for in every way. Decorations may popularise the army to the few, but proper and considerate attention to the many is needed to do so to the public. To my mind it is astonishing how[328] great people, who have all the power to remedy these little defects, who pride themselves on the prestige of our name, whose time must hang so very heavily on their hands, can remain year after year heedless of the sick and afflicted. I speak from experience when I say that both in China and Soudan, I gained the hearts of my soldiers (who would do anything for me) not by my justice, &c., but by looking after them when sick and wounded, and by continually visiting the Hospitals.… [If you cannot help us] well! I fall back on my verse “If thou seest the oppression of the poor and violent perversity of judgment marvel not at it, for He that is higher than the Highest regardeth it.”

Miss Nightingale took the matter up at once. She put the case into form, and submitted it, through Sir Harry Verney, to the Secretary for War, Mr. Childers, who promised to look into it. Presently he called for a report on hospital nursing by orderlies, and in August the Departmental answer was forwarded to Miss Nightingale. “I have seen such answers,” she wrote,[197] “at the Crimean war time. ‘The patient has died of neglect and want of proper attendance; but by Regulations should not have died; therefore the allegation that he is dead is disposed of.’” In this case the allegations were not disposed of, as we shall hear presently.

Early in May General Gordon left England as private secretary to Lord Ripon, and before starting he sent one of his “little books of comfort” to Miss Nightingale. He resigned the incongruous appointment almost as soon as he had reached India, and after a special mission in China returned to England. He saw Miss Nightingale and announced his intention of going to Syria. Miss Nightingale upbraided him. His past claimed more of his future than a tour of curiosity in the East. Why should he not return to India in an unofficial character? She could tell him of much work to do there:—

(General Gordon to Miss Nightingale.) Southampton, April 4 [1881]. You have written most kindly and far too highly of me, for I find no responding tone in my heart to make me claim such praise. I will explain exactly how I am situated.[329] I consider my life done, that I can never aspire to or seek employment, when one's voice must be stilled to some particular note; therefore I say it is done, and the only thing now left to me is to drift along to its natural end and in the endeavour to do what little good one may be able to do. Syria is, to me, no land of attraction, all lands are indifferent. I go for no desire of curiosity, but simply because it is a quiet land and a land where small means can do much good. That is all my reason for going there. I would have gone to the Cape. I would have gone to India as you suggest, but I would never do so if I had to accept the shibboleth of the Indian or Colonial official classes.… My life is truly to me a straw, but I must live. Would that it could go to give you and all others the sense that they are all risen in Christ even now, even if it was at the cost of my eternal existence—such is the love I have for my fellow-creatures, but the door is shut. I cannot live in England; for though I have many many millions in my Home, I am only put on short allowance here, tho' it is ample for me with my wants. I cannot visit the sick in London: it is too expensive. I can do so in Syria, and where the sick are, there is our Lord. I would do anything I could for India, but I feel sure my advent there would not be allowed.

The time was presently to come when Gordon's wish was in a way he knew not to be granted, and his death was to be an inspiration unto many. For the present, Miss Nightingale hoped for the Cape or some other Colonial duty rather than Syria; and Sir Harry Verney wrote to Mr. Gladstone on the matter, mentioning her name. This she had not intended. Never reluctant to intervene in cases which might be considered within her competence, she had the strongest objection to weakening her influence by any appearance of meddling in matters wherein she had no better right to express an opinion than anybody else. She scolded Sir Harry severely for his indiscretion; but Mr. Gladstone sent a friendly answer (April 26): “he will make the circumstances known to Lord Kimberley who, he is sure, will, like himself, desire to turn Colonel Gordon's services to account.” Gordon, meanwhile, whose rapid changes of intention must at this time have been puzzling to his friends, had accepted a military appointment at Mauritius, which, however, was soon followed by one at the Cape. Before leaving England, he again sent Miss[330] Nightingale some of his little books.[198] She never saw or heard directly from him again; but from Brussels, on the day before his fateful interview with the British Cabinet in London, he wrote to Sir Harry Verney (Jan. 17, 1884): “I daily come and see you in spirit—you and Miss Nightingale.” And from Khartoum (Feb. 26): “I am among the ruins of a Government, and it is not cheerful work. However, many pray for me, and if it is God's will, I shall hope to get all things quieted down ere long. There is not much human hope in my wish, but I force myself to trust Him. Indeed one ought to be content with His help, and in fact can lean on no other, for I have none. Unless He will turn the hearts of men towards peace, I have no hope. I wish I could have called and seen you and Miss Nightingale, but I had no time.” After his death, she took for some years a lively interest in the management of the Gordon Boys' Home. It was at a meeting in connection with it that her words, quoted at the head of this chapter, were read.[199]


During the years 1881 and 1882 Miss Nightingale was very busy with Indian questions, and when Lord Ripon's policy was disclosed, he became a hero to her almost comparable to General Gordon. In forwarding to Lord Ripon a copy of one of her Indian pieces, she sent her “deepest reverence and highest hopes for all the great measures by which the Viceroy is bringing peace to the people of India and fulfilling England's pledges. And the love and blessing of India's people be upon him!” Readers of the present generation, who do not remember the political controversies of thirty years ago, and who are familiar with experiments in Indian reform, more daring in some respects than any which Lord Ripon attempted, may wonder at Miss Nightingale's enthusiasm. But it was very natural to one holding[331] her views at the time. The admiration which she felt for Lord Ripon and his policy was equalled by the passionate detestation felt by the larger, if not the better, part of Anglo-Indian opinion. The opposition to the “Ilbert Bill,” named after the member of the Legislative Council who introduced it, was intensely bitter; that to some other branches of Lord Ripon's policy, hardly less so. Miss Nightingale was behind the scenes both at Calcutta or Simla and in London: in India by confidential communications from Lord Ripon himself, in London through friends in the India Office. She knew how uncertain was the support he received in his own Council, and how strong was the opposition in the Council in Downing Street. He was a good man fighting against adversity, and she was eager to do what she could to help him. His reforms were also hers. She had spent years of labour in mastering the intricacies of land tenure in India. For years her heart had been full of the grievances of the cultivators. And now Lord Ripon had prepared Land Reform Bills for Bengal and Oudh which, if passed, would give the ryot security against oppression. She had thought much and written something on Indian education.[200] It was “not enough,” she had said, “to read Locke and Mill.” She wanted an education which would teach the peoples of India to be “men,” which would encourage them to the better cultivation of agriculture and industries, which would enable every patel (village headman) to understand and enforce the principles of sanitation. And Lord Ripon had appointed an Education Commission (1882), from which some useful reforms followed. As for the “Ilbert Bill,” which sought to confer upon duly qualified native judges powers equal to their position, it was in Miss Nightingale's eyes a measure of simple justice and duty; it was an honest fulfilment, within its scope, of the Proclamation of 1858, in which the Queen declared her pleasure, that as far as may be “Our subjects of whatever race or creed be impartially admitted to Our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity duly to discharge.” Lord Ripon's measures in the direction of local self-government similarly appealed to Miss[332] Nightingale. It has been thought by some that Lord Ripon attempted too much and allowed too little for Lord Salisbury's “periods of Indian cosmogony.” But in these matters some one must begin; and if some of the hopes raised by Lord Ripon's pronouncements have been doomed to disappointment, the fears of his more frantic opponents have been in at least equal measure belied by the event. Miss Nightingale was among those with whom hope ran highest. Her fundamental doctrine of human perfectibility by Divine order encouraged her to see in Lord Ripon the Providential instrument of vast changes. She approved whole-heartedly of all that he actually proposed, writing him letters of enthusiastic encouragement, and she also plied him with suggestions of further reforms. In particular, she sent him a scheme—in which Captain Galton, Dr. Sutherland, and Sir Richard Temple collaborated with her—for village sanitation in India. She regarded his Viceroyalty almost as the beginning of the millennium.

Miss Nightingale, however, was no idle or vague enthusiast. She was one of those who, while they fix their eyes on the stars, keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. She was as indefatigable as ever in mastering every detail, a process in which Lord Ripon's supply of Minutes and other documents provided abundant material, and she continued to see and correspond with every available Anglo-Indian or Indian who could help her, or whom she could hope to influence. There were two main lines on which her activities moved. “India says,” she wrote, “‘We want all the help you can give us from home.’” So, then, she devoted herself, in the first place, to the support of Lord Ripon's policy. She was constant in inspiring sympathisers at home to fresh exertions. She suggested meetings and propaganda. She wrote articles and assisted others to write. She was in constant communication with Sir William Wedderburn. She made the acquaintance of Mr. A. O. Hume, “the father of the Indian National Congress.” She saw Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, Mr. Lalmohun Ghose, and other Indian gentlemen. But Miss Nightingale had no fanatical belief in the value of legislative reforms in themselves. They are worth no more than the public opinion[333] and the individual effort which they express or inspire. If Lord Ripon's policy was indeed to inaugurate a millennium in India, there must be a new zeal alike in Anglo-Indian administration and among the more educated classes of India. In her interviews with the latter, she was constant in impressing upon them how much each one might do in promoting sanitation and education. She took a lively interest in the Zenana mission. She saw Mrs. Scharlieb when that lady went out to practise medicine in India, corresponded with her, and gave her introductions. Lord Roberts came to see her (June 1881) before taking up his appointment as Commander-in-Chief in Madras. Mr. Ilbert had seen her before going out as judicial member of the Governor-General's Council, and they kept up a correspondence. Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff similarly called on his appointment to the Governorship of Madras (June 1881), and throughout his term of office he wrote reporting progress on all matters likely to interest her.

Miss Nightingale was particularly interested in agricultural development and education. She saw much of Sir James Caird, and corresponded with Mr. W. R. Robertson, the Principal of the Agricultural College in Madras. Candidates selected for the Indian Civil Service were now given the option of a year's study at the University before going out, and at Balliol Mr. Arnold Toynbee was appointed a lecturer to them. Miss Nightingale made his acquaintance, and corresponded with him. “I know nothing,” she wrote (May 30, 1882), “that tells so soon, so widely, so vigorously as Indian Civil Service administration. Balliol sends forth her raw missionaries; and in four years from the time he was an undergraduate, see what a man may do!” “Could not some instruction be given,” she suggested (Oct. 20, 1882), “in agriculture and forestry,” so as “at least to direct your students' attention to what are the peculiar wants of India, a knowledge often absent in her rulers? In agricultural chemistry, in botany (as regards plants and woods), in geology (as regards soils and water-supply), in forestry (as regards rainfall and fuel), in animal physiology (as regards breeds, fodder, and cattle-diseases), there is much ignorance in India. What if Scientific Agriculture[334] could be taught at Oxford?” These things have of late years been done both at Oxford and at Cambridge. Then Miss Nightingale discussed with Mr. Toynbee the importance of familiarizing the students with the agrarian conditions in India, “so as to open the minds of these future administrators and judges to the real significance of their position and its responsibilities.” To this end she induced her friend, Sir George Campbell, to give a course of lectures at Oxford. Of her own writings during this period[201] the most considerable was an elaborate exposition and defence of Lord Ripon's Bengal Land Tenure Bill, of which, as of his other measures, the fate was hanging in the balance. This Paper—entitled in her fanciful way The Dumb shall speak, and the Deaf shall hear, or, The Ryot, the Zemindar, and the Government—was read (by Mr. Frederick Verney) at a meeting of the East India Association at Exeter Hall on June 1, 1883, with Sir Bartle Frere in the chair. It was well reported; there was a full attendance of distinguished Anglo-Indians, and a lively discussion followed. Miss Nightingale printed her Paper as a pamphlet and distributed it widely. The discussion showed much difference of opinion, but every speaker paid a tribute to Miss Nightingale's knowledge and devotion. There was one who was able from personal experience to recall the thoughts of the audience to other scenes wherein she had won her first renown. This was Surgeon-Major Vincent Ambler. “I was sick in hospital at Balaclava,” he said, “and she nursed me through a long illness of Crimean fever. She was with me, I might almost say, night and day, and it is to her good nursing and energetic attention I owe my recovery. Previous to my illness I had had experience of her friendship when at Scutari, where the hospitals were crammed with dead and dying, and cholera was carrying off hundreds of victims a day; it was amid such scenes as this that I constantly beheld Miss Nightingale.” Scenes not quite so terrible, but yet not entirely different, had been witnessed at this time in other fields of war; and Miss Nightingale, though no longer able to be in the midst of them herself, played some part, nevertheless, in ministering to the sick[335] through her pupils, and in seeking to remedy defects in administration which the test of war had once more revealed. To these scenes, leaving Lord Ripon's measures trembling in the balance, we must now turn.


The Egyptian campaign of 1882 called for female nurses, and Miss Nightingale worked at high pressure in selecting them, and arranging details of their outfit. “I have been working some days,” she told Mrs. Hawthorn (Aug. 3, 1882), “from 4.30 A.M. till 10 P.M.” Mrs. Deeble, of Netley, was in command of the female nursing corps, twenty-four strong, in which several old pupils of the Nightingale School at St. Thomas's were enrolled. They wrote repeatedly to their “Chief” at home, and she sent them constant messages of advice and encouragement. “A thousand thanks for your dear kind letter, which seems to have given me fresh vigour to combat against our many difficulties.” “How good and kind you are to send me that welcome telegram. A few words now and then from you are so cheering.” There are hundreds of such notes. The spirit of an old campaigner revived in Miss Nightingale as she read of stirring deeds, whether earlier in South Africa or now in Egypt. Nor had her “children” in the army altogether forgotten their old friend. There were four men, wounded at Majuba, who were detained for some weeks in hospital at Netley. They spent their time of convalescence in making a patchwork quilt, and asked that it should be sent from them “to Florence Nightingale.” In November 1882 the Guards began to return from Egypt. A regiment of them (Grenadiers) was under the command of Colonel Philip Smith, a nephew of Sir Harry Verney, who persuaded Miss Nightingale to drive to the station to see their arrival. She was deeply moved:—

November 13 [1882]. For the first time for 25 years I went out to see a sight—to Victoria Station to see the return of the Foot Guards. Anybody might have been proud of these men's appearance—like shabby skeletons, or at least half their former size—in worn but well-cleaned campaigning uniform;[336] not spruce or showy, but alert, silent, steady. And not a man of them all, I am sure, but thought he had nothing in what he had done to be proud of; tho' we might well be proud of them. Royalty was there with its usual noble simplicity to bid them an unobtrusive welcome. The men, not the Royalty, were to be all in all on that occasion. A more deeply felt and less showy scene could not have been imagined.

So Miss Nightingale noted at the time, and presently she included her description in one of the letters which she sent every now and then at the Commanding Officer's request for him to read out to the men of the Volunteer Corps at Romsey, near her old home. She used the incident again in an address to the Nightingale Probationers (1883). A few days later (Nov. 18, 1882) there was a Royal Review, on the Horse Guards Parade, of the troops returned from the Egyptian campaign, and Miss Nightingale was present, at Mr. Gladstone's invitation, on a stand erected in the Prime Minister's garden. She was seated between him and Mrs. Gladstone, and Mrs. Gladstone, in recalling the occasion, used to say that “there were tears in Miss Nightingale's dear eyes as the poor ragged fellows marched past.” Her presence on this occasion was observed, and she was invited accordingly to attend the opening of the new Law Courts by the Queen (Dec. 4). She was given a place on the dais, and the Queen, noticing her, sent a message to say “how pleased she was to see Miss Nightingale there, looking well.”

Lord Wolseley's Egyptian campaign of 1882 was short and sharp, and from the combative point of view admirably managed, but there was a good deal of sickness among the soldiers. The fighting during these years (1880–82), both in South Africa and in Egypt, put to the test the re-organizations of the Army Medical and Hospital Service which had taken place since Miss Nightingale was “in office” with Sidney Herbert. The result of the test was far from satisfactory. There were, indeed, no scandals on the scale of the Crimean War, and the death-rate during the Egyptian campaign may fairly be cited as proof that great improvements had been effected since that time.[202] But there were[337] grave defects, and Miss Nightingale played an active part both in bringing them to light and in striving for their prevention in future. She was in close touch with the hospital arrangements both in Natal and in Egypt through her friends among the lady nurses and lady visitors. From Natal, one of the latter, Mrs. Hawthorn, had sent her many particulars, supported by evidence, of neglect in the hospitals. Miss Nightingale wrote a memorandum on the subject, which she submitted, again through Sir Harry Verney, to the Secretary for War. Mr. Childers appointed a Court of Inquiry (June 1882), presided over by Sir Evelyn Wood, to investigate the charges. The Committee reported that “improvements in the system of nursing are both practicable and desirable.” “This is rather a mild opinion,” wrote Sir Robert Loyd Lindsay (Lord Wantage) to Miss Nightingale (Oct. 23, 1882), “considering that all the independent evidence went to show that the orderlies were often drunk and riotous, that they ate the rations of the sick, and left the nursing of the patients to the convalescents.” The Egyptian campaign followed, and many cases of neglect were alleged. The Committee was reconstituted (Oct. 1882) on an enlarged basis, under the chairmanship of the Earl of Morley, with instructions to inquire, with special reference to the Egyptian campaign, into the organization of the Army Hospital Corps and the whole question of hospital management and nursing in the field. Miss Nightingale had a close ally during this inquiry in Lord Wantage, who was a member of the Committee. She suggested witnesses to him; and sent him elaborate briefs for their examination. She was furnished day by day with the minutes of evidence; and when the time came for preparing the Report, she wrote successive papers of suggestions, which Lord Wantage submitted to the Chairman. “I think,” wrote Lord Wantage (May 5, 1883), “that the Report, although dealing with details, and not going much beyond them, will be of service. And I am bound to say many of the best suggestions come from you, and for these I beg to thank you most sincerely”; and, again, in sending her an early proof of the Report (June 12): “I can only repeat once more how valuable your aid was to me during the enquiry. If the Secretary of[338] State carries out the Report, some of the most useful improvements will have originated with you.”

Miss Nightingale found in the evidence a justification of her forebodings during past years. It disclosed evils comparable in kind, though not in extent, to those at Scutari and in the Crimea.[203] Supplies procurable had not been procured. Hospital equipment was incomplete. The cooking was defective, and so forth. These defects were due, Miss Nightingale considered, to the undoing of Sidney Herbert's work. The Purveyor's Department, reorganized by him and her, had been abolished. For the rest, their whole scheme of reorganization had been based on the regimental system, which had now been abandoned for a unitary system, though in time of war some return to the former was a necessity. Miss Nightingale did not wholly condemn these changes in themselves. What she complained of was that they had not been thought out in all the details or in terms of war. This was what she meant when she noted the progress of reorganization during previous years, and pronounced it lacking in administrative skill.[204] She now said that the changes must be accepted, and threw herself into the work of lending aid towards improvement. She saw and corresponded with the Director-General of the Army Medical Department, Dr. T. Crawford, than whom, she said, “we have not had such a man of unflagging energy since Alexander.”[205] She made friends with many other army doctors. Among them was Surgeon-Major G. J. H. Evatt, who had seen service in India, and was now at the Royal Military Academy. He assisted Miss Nightingale in suggestions for the reorganization of the Army Hospital Corps in India, which she sent to Lord Ripon. She was consulted on revised regulations for various branches of the medical service. She was in constant communication with her old associates, Captain Galton and Dr. Sutherland, and she urged the former to keep the question of reform to the front by writing in the papers and magazines.



In the middle of 1883 Miss Nightingale was in the thick of her two main preoccupations—the defence of Lord Ripon's Indian policy and the reform of the Army Hospital Service—when an opportunity came to her for putting in a word on behalf of each of these causes in the highest quarter. The decoration of the Royal Red Cross had been instituted by Royal Warrant on April 23, 1883, and Miss Nightingale's attendance was requested at Windsor on July 5 to receive the decoration for her “special exertions in providing for the nursing of the sick and wounded soldiers and sailors.” She was invited to dine and sleep at the castle on the occasion. The Queen, whose observant eye had noticed at the opening of the Law Courts that Miss Nightingale was attended by Sir Harry Verney, hoped that he would again accompany her. The state of her health compelled Miss Nightingale to decline the invitation[206]; with the greater reluctance because there were two subjects—India and the Army Medical Service—on which the Queen had permitted her to speak on a previous occasion and on which she would now have highly prized the opportunity of speaking again. She begged to be permitted to write to Her Majesty instead. The permission was given, and Miss Nightingale sent a letter upon the state of the Army Medical and Hospital Services. A second letter contained an expository vindication of Lord Ripon's Indian measures. In this connection it had been intimated to Miss Nightingale by a friend that she would do well to describe in a few words what the Ilbert Bill really was. The Queen had doubtless read voluminous dispatches “about it and about,” and perhaps been addressed on the subject by copious Ministers “as if she were a public meeting,” and like the greater number of her subjects may have felt little the wiser. Miss Nightingale condensed into the following words the nature of the Bill and the case for it: “The so-called ‘Ilbert Bill’ is intended to give limited powers to try Europeans, outside of[340] the Presidency towns, to Native Magistrates and Judges who, after long trial of their judicial qualification, in corresponding positions, have shown themselves worthy to be entrusted with this duty and have risen to that grade where for their official responsibility such powers are required. It is no new experiment, but has been tried on the Bench of the High Courts and in the Chief Magistracies of the Presidency towns.” Miss Nightingale then went on to refer to the Queen's “noble proclamation” of 1858, and to connect the Ilbert Bill with it. “The Queen has proclaimed that she will admit the natives of India to share in the government of that country without distinction of race and creed. She has invited them to educate themselves to qualify for her service as Englishmen do. In face of the greatest difficulties they have in competition with our ablest young men gained honourable place, and by trial in long service have proved themselves efficient and trustworthy.” It would be disastrous, Miss Nightingale went on to argue, if, in deference to clamour, the Queen's Government were to draw back from giving effect to Her Majesty's gracious assurances:—

(Sir Henry Ponsonby to Miss Nightingale.) Osborne, August 13 [1883]. The Queen hopes you will forgive her for not answering your letters herself. Her Majesty has been so constantly interrupted in writing that she has entrusted to me the duty of conveying to you her thanks for the two very interesting communications you have been good enough to address to Her Majesty.

With regard to the “Ilbert Bill” which is now being so vehemently discussed, The Queen cannot but deplore the acrimony with which the question has been treated; but as it is a matter under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, The Queen is unwilling to express any opinion upon the measure at present.

It gave The Queen sincere pleasure to confer the decoration of the Royal Red Cross upon you, who have worked so hard and who have effected so much in the Sanitary Departments of the Army, and The Queen is very grateful for your observations on the Military Medical questions, and has read with much interest the paper in the Fortnightly Review[207] to which you called her attention. Her Majesty considers your remarks of the highest[341] value, and fully concurs in your opinion that the Hospital Services should be carried out in a manner calculated to relieve the Medical officer from the care of details not belonging to his Medical work. The abolition of the Purveyor's Department and the change from the Regimental to the General system—which The Queen much regrets—were both effected on the recommendation of the Medical officers, and The Queen observes that those who gave evidence before the late Committee of Enquiry consider these steps to have improved the efficiency of their Department. These matters have been prominently brought to Her Majesty's notice lately, as the selection of a new Commandant to Netley Hospital is now under consideration, and the comparative advantages of naming a Combatant or Medical officer are being discussed.

The Queen was extremely sorry to have missed the opportunity of seeing you at Windsor, but trusts that on some future occasion she may be more fortunate. I am to repeat to you Her Majesty's thanks for your letters, and to assure you that The Queen will always be glad to receive any communications from you.

The practical interest which Queen Victoria took in Army matters may have been a factor in the prompt attempt to remedy the evils to which Miss Nightingale had called attention. In the following year Miss Nightingale obtained, through Lord Wantage, a statement from the War Office (Oct. 17, 1884) “showing how far the recommendations of Lord Morley's Committee had been carried out.” There were very few of the evils left unremedied—at any rate on paper.

There was one feature of the Hospital Service upon which the inquiries above mentioned threw nothing but praise, and that was the female nursing. Lord Wolseley, whose service dated back, like Miss Nightingale's, to the Crimean War, was particularly emphatic on this point. “I have always thought,” he said, “that the presence of lady nurses in our military hospitals was a matter of the first consequence. When, as a General, I have inspected hospitals, I always felt I could not really ‘get at’ the patients; few men would dare to speak against the orderlies of a hospital, no matter how you may question them, but they would tell what they think very freely to a lady nurse who is attendant upon them. Apart from the incalculable boon[342] which the care and kindness of such ladies confers upon the sick or wounded soldier, I regard their presence in all our hospitals as a most wholesome check upon the whole personnel in them. I am sure that the patients in a ward where there was a lady nurse would always receive the wine, food, etc., ordered them by the doctor, and the irregularities of the orderlies, such as those complained of by Mrs. Hawthorn, could not take place. I am therefore of opinion that it was very wrong to have prevented that lady from entering the wards at Pietermaritzburg, and I think it would be desirable to call attention in the Queen's Regulations to the great advantage of procuring the aid of lady nurses at all stations, both in peace and war.”[208] All this is precisely the doctrine preached by Miss Nightingale when she said that the most important function of the female nurse was the education of the male orderly. Lord Wolseley, in the Memorandum just quoted, was speaking from personal experience in South Africa. Subsequent experience in Egypt confirmed his opinions, and in his evidence before the later Committee of Inquiry he was even more emphatic. “The employment of lady nurses to a very large extent in every hospital on service” was the surest way to efficiency. The female nurses at Cairo, Ismailia, and Alexandria were of the “greatest assistance.” “It was delightful to go into a ward where there was a female nurse. Their presence made the greatest difference.” “If I might so describe them, although it is not perhaps a complimentary way of describing them, they are the best spies in the hospital upon everybody.”[209]


The nurses were soon to have another opportunity of proving their usefulness; but we must first return, with Miss Nightingale, to Lord Ripon's Indian reforms, the fate of which was in the middle of 1883 still uncertain. “Which way,” she wrote to friends likely to know, “do you think[343] the storm is going?” She had urged the Viceroy “not to yield to the storm which raged round him,” and he had assured her that he had no inclination whatever to do so, though he would not be unwilling to admit reasonable amendments to his proposals. The Viceroy's letters showed Miss Nightingale that his policy would need all the support that those in England who agreed with it could give. The storm-centre was the Ilbert Bill, and Lord Ripon's letter had prepared Miss Nightingale for coming events. “Reasonable amendments” were ultimately accepted, and the “Ilbert Bill” was passed (Jan. 1884). The compromise was that Europeans tried before native judges should have the right of claiming a jury. “The so-called compromise is, in fact, a surrender,” wrote one of Miss Nightingale's Radical friends; but for her part she held that the Viceroy had wisely yielded somewhat on a less important point, in order to improve the prospects of his more important measures. With these, from time to time, Lord Ripon reported satisfactory progress. After some difficulties with the India Office, he was allowed to establish an Agricultural Department in Bengal. The prospects of the Land Tenure Bills were favourable.[210] The local self-government Bills were passed. Educational reforms had been made. Then, presently, it was announced in London that Lord Ripon had resigned and would shortly return to England. Miss Nightingale was much perturbed, and accused her friend of “deserting the Empire.” Lord Ripon in reply sent her a long letter of explanation, the gist of which was that he had exhausted his powers of usefulness in India, and that, by retiring now instead of serving his full term, he would be more likely to obtain a sympathetic successor. The successor was soon appointed, and early in November Lord Dufferin came to see Miss Nightingale. “My visit from Lord Dufferin,” she wrote to Dr. Sutherland (Nov. 6), “took place yesterday. We went over many things—Sanitation, Land Tenure, Agriculture, Civil Service, etc. etc. And I am to send him a Note of each. But about sanitary things he says he is perfectly ignorant, especially of Indian sanitary[344] things. But he says, ‘Give me your instructions and I will obey them. I will study them on my way out. Send me what you think. Supply the powder and I will fire the shot.’ Give me quickly what instructions you think I should send him.” This letter reached Dr. Sutherland on a Friday, and she had commanded him to send in his notes “before Monday.” But, as ill luck had it, the Doctor was busy “in working at the cholera bacillus with a beautiful Vienna microscope purchased with this object.” That would occupy him on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday was Sunday; so “the Viceroy must wait.” The reader who remembers an earlier chapter will be able to imagine Miss Nightingale's wrath. Notes and telegrams, now withering, now pleading, followed fast upon each other. “I did not know the bacillus was of more consequence than a Viceroy.” “If you did a little on Sunday, the Recording Angel would drop not a tear but a smile.” But Dr. Sutherland was not to be cajoled into abandoning either his science or his Sabbatarianism; and on the former point he put in a very good plea in mitigation of judgment. If Dr. Koch's cholera bacillus turned out well, the discovery would save many more lives than Lord Dufferin, however carefully instructed, was likely to do. Miss Nightingale did not believe in the bacillus but allowed herself to be appeased, especially as it turned out that Lord Dufferin was not leaving London till a day or two later than she had supposed. So, she and Dr. Sutherland collaborated in indoctrinating their fifth Viceroy in the truths of their Sanitary gospel. There is a formidable list in her hand of “Papers for Lord Dufferin.” As he was as good as his word, he must have had a strenuous voyage. On starting he sent to her one of his pretty little letters:—

(Lord Dufferin to Miss Nightingale.) S.S. “Tasmania,” Nov. 13 [1884]. My dear Miss Nightingale—I duly received the papers you were good enough to send me, and you may be quite sure of my studying them with the attention they deserve. I well know how well entitled you are to speak with authority in reference to Indian questions, and I can well believe that you have thought out many conclusions which it would be of the greatest benefit to me to ponder over. I hope you will[345] forgive me for adding that one of the pleasantest “sweets of office” I have yet tasted has been the privilege I acquired of coming to pay you that little visit.

Meanwhile, Miss Nightingale, in the hope of completing the new Viceroy's education, had written an account of her interview to Lord Ripon, so that when they met he might know on what points his successor most needed indoctrinating. Lord Dufferin had not long been gone when an opportunity offered itself for another effort at evangelization. At the end of November Mr. Gladstone called upon Miss Nightingale. He had come without an appointment, and she was unable to see him; but assuming, for her purpose, that he had proposed to discuss Indian questions, she sent him a written statement of her views on various matters, and asked leave to write again with more special reference to Lord Ripon's splendid record. Mr. Gladstone thanked her (Dec. 6) for the valuable letter; said that the best use he could make of it would be to commend it to the attention of Lord Kimberley[211]; and added that he would be very glad to hear her views about Lord Ripon's administration. She had wanted to interest Mr. Gladstone, and was disappointed that he had only passed her letter on to Lord Kimberley, who, she thought, meant the India Council, a body not sympathetic to the Ripon policy. But, as she had been given the opening, she made another attempt. Mr. Gladstone was, of course, in general sympathy with Lord Ripon, but she wanted the Prime Minister to give greater prominence and emphasis to Indian internal reforms in his speeches. She did not succeed. “I wish I could hope,” wrote a friend who knew both India and Mr. Gladstone well (Jan. 4, 1885), “that you could make some real impression on him; but at his age and at this time, when his hands are so full, what can you expect? He has never given his mind to India, and it is too late now.” It was not only Mr. Gladstone who was preoccupied at this time with other things than the welfare of the Indian peoples. Miss Nightingale soon discovered this. Lord Ripon was nearly due in England.[346] He ought, she said, to receive a popular welcome as enthusiastic as any accorded to a conquering General. As there were no signs of any preparation in that sort, she worked very hard, though with very little success, to organize a welcome in the form of laudatory articles in various newspapers and reviews.[212] She herself wrote an enthusiastic appreciation, but she was unwilling to sign it. The editors were willing to publish anything to which Miss Florence Nightingale would give her name, but for articles in praise of Lord Ripon's policy without that attraction there was no demand. As soon as it was disclosed that what was offered was only an unsigned article, or an article signed by some nominee of hers, the editors, with one consent, discovered that exigencies of space prevented its insertion. And this was not surprising; for Khartoum had fallen, and the Government was tottering. Miss Nightingale was as keenly interested as any one else in those things; but there were few beside herself to whom the standing problems of Indian administration were matters of “life and death,” no less passionately interesting than the fate of a hero or the fall of a ministry.


Lord Wolseley had been appointed to command a Gordon Relief Expedition in August 1884. There were already female nurses in Egypt. Some had been retained at Cairo after the Arabi Campaign of 1882. Others had been sent to Suakin during the “military operations” of 1883. More were now sent by the Government, and some were ordered up the Nile to Wady Halfa. Miss Nightingale felt this to be a great event. “Luther says,” she wrote to Miss Pringle (Claydon, Oct. 11, 1884), “that he looks and sees the firmament which God has made without pillars, and we wretched men are always afraid that it will tumble down unless we make our little pillars half a foot high. It is 34 years since I was at Wady Halfa. How little I could ever have thought that there would be trained nurses now there! O faithless me, that think God cannot make His firmament without[347] pillars.” But Miss Nightingale's religion enjoined, as we know, “working with God.” The ultimate issue did not rest upon the little pillars; but they must be set up for what they are worth none the less, and Miss Nightingale threw herself, heart and soul, into forwarding the Egyptian nursing campaign. Presently more nurses were sent out on private initiative—some by the National Aid Society, others by a committee of ladies. On February 20, 1885, Lady Rosebery called at South Street. She and Mrs. Gladstone and Lady Salisbury, and other ladies, with the Princess of Wales, were proposing to establish a Committee of their own to send additional comforts for the sick and wounded, as well as additional nurses. In order to secure unity of administration, and in loyalty to Lord Wantage's Society, Miss Nightingale advised against any separate organization, and the Committee, which she then agreed to join, was reconstituted as “The Princess of Wales's Branch of the National Aid Society.” The Superintendent of the nurses sent out by the Government was one of Miss Nightingale's dearest pupils, Miss Rachel Williams, whose acquaintance we have made already under her pet-name of “The Goddess.” She had been in indifferent health and much worried. She stayed in South Street while arrangements were pending, and Miss Nightingale announced the departure to Miss Pringle (March 4): “Our darling has started this morning by the Navarino with seven nurses for Suez. If you had seen, as I did, how, the moment it was settled that she was to have this work, the cloud and the load were lifted off her, and she became again the Goddess and her youth returned, you would have felt, as she said, that Providential Goodness had opened and guided every step of her way. As soon as her appointment was made she looked as beautiful and bonny as ever.”

The rapidity of Miss Nightingale's decision, her memory for matters of detail, her thoughtfulness for others even in trivial things, her kindliness of heart interlacing the practical instinct, the mingled playfulness and gravity of her manner—these things are all illustrated in the reminiscences of another member of the party which sailed for Egypt in the Navarino:—

I was then Sister of one of the surgical wards at King's[348] College Hospital. It was on a Saturday in February, about midday, just as I was due to attend the operation cases from my ward, that a one-armed commissionaire appeared at the ward door: “A note for Sister Philippa from Miss Nightingale,” he said. The request it contained was characteristic of the writer—decisive, yet kindly. Would I leave in three days' time for service in the Soudan? if so, I must be at her house for instructions on Monday at 8.30 A.M., at Marlborough House to be interviewed by Queen Alexandra (then Princess of Wales) at 11 A.M.; and immediately afterwards at Messrs. Cappers, Gracechurch Street, to be fitted for my war uniform. Would I also breakfast with her on Wednesday, so that she “might check the fit of my uniform, and wish me God-speed.” Months afterwards, when the war was over, and we were quietly chatting over things at Claydon, how she enjoyed hearing the numerous trivial details of that three days' rush! Again and again she would refer to that afternoon when I had to stand by the patient's side in the operating theatre, mechanically waiting on the surgeons, outwardly placid, yet inwardly, as I told her, in a fever of excitement, not so much at the thought of going to the front, as at the fact I had been chosen by her to follow in her footsteps.

On the Monday above referred to, punctually at half-past eight, I arrived at South Street, wondering what my reception would be, but before ten minutes had passed all wonder and speculation had given place to unbounded admiration and (even at that early acquaintanceship) affection for the warm-hearted old lady who counselled me as a nurse, mothered me as an out-put from her Home, and urged me to spare no point—myself specially—where the soldiers were concerned. “Remember;” she said, “when you are far away up-country, possibly the only English woman there, that those men will note and remember your every action, not only as a nurse, but as a woman; your life to them will be as the rings a pebble makes when thrown into a pond—reaching far, reaching wide—each ripple gone beyond your grasp, yet remembered almost to exaggeration by those soldiers lying helpless in their sickness. See that your every word and act is worthy of your profession and your womanhood.” Then she asked me to accept an india-rubber travelling bath as “her parting gift to a one-time probationer who had once reminded her that cleanliness was next to Godliness,”[213] and in[349] spite of the merry twinkle in her eye as she said this, there were tears of anxious kindness as she added, “God guard you in His safe keeping and make you worthy of His trust—our soldiers.”

I saw nothing more of her till Wednesday morning. The troop-ship in which we were to go out left Tilbury Docks at 11 o'clock, and I was to breakfast with Miss Nightingale at half-past seven. It was rather a rush to manage it, but it was well worth any amount of inconvenience to have that last hour with her, and it was a picture that will always remain above all others in my memory. Propped up in bed, the pillows framing her kindly face with its lace-covered silvery hair, and twinkling eyes. I often think her sense of humour must have been as strong a bond between her and the soldiers as her sympathy was. The coffee, toast, eggs, and honey, “a real English breakfast, dear child,” she said, “and it is good to know you will have honestly earned the next one you eat in England.” “And suppose I don't return to eat one at all?” I asked. “Well! you will have earned that too, dear heart,” she answered quietly. Who can be surprised that we worshipped our Chief? Other nurses were going out in the same ship as I, and when we entered our cabins we found a bouquet of flowers for each of us, attached to which was “God-speed from Florence Nightingale.”

Six months after, in the glare and heat of an August afternoon, when the Egyptian campaign was a thing of the past, a shipload of sick and wounded soldiers glided slowly into the docks at Southampton. While I was helping to transfer some of the most serious cases to Netley, a telegram was handed to me. It was from Miss Nightingale: “Am staying at Claydon, cleaners and painters in possession of 10 South Street, but two rooms, Mrs. Neild [the Housekeeper], and a warm welcome are awaiting your arrival there. Use them as long as you wish.” On arriving at South Street I found it all just as she had said, and by the first post next day came a letter from Claydon, such a home welcome! It was well worth all the heat and glare of a Soudan summer, all the absence of water, and presence of insects, and the hundred and one other uncomfortable things that flesh is heir to during similar circumstances, to get such a letter of welcome as that. It ended up with “make South Street your headquarters till your work is finished” (there was much detail to complete in connection with the National Aid Society before I could leave London), “and then come to me at Claydon.” So after a couple of weeks' work in London, I went to Claydon, and there, during a month's rest in one of the most beautiful of England's country homes, I learned to know and understand Miss Nightingale, to realize what the friendship of a character like hers means. “The essence of Friendship,” says Emerson,[350] “is tenderness and trust.” No words better describe our Chief than these.

Sister Philippa was only one of the many war-nurses to whom their Chief showed this tender friendship. During their service abroad, she was constant in letters of encouragement and advice:—

(To Miss Williams, at Suez.) 10 South Street, July 3.… The Orderlies are not hopeless but untrained. Government are now doing all they can. In my day they were hopeless. They place them now under the Sisters. The great business of the Sisters is to train them. It is the more aggravating when there are so few Sisters that they can't give time to train these men who are essential in the Field. O how I wish I could send you several Sisters at once! But I am altogether puzzled. Your telegrams, which I suspect were not dictated by you, say “Sufficient.” Would that I could help you to nurse the Typhoids! I am sure you are doing great good among the Orderlies, even tho' you do not know it. The very fact that they see you think neglect a crime does good. How well I know their fatal neglects with Typhoid cases! But 30 years ago women Nurses were just as bad. See the difference now. There is a Miss Williams. Cheer up: fight the good fight of faith. I need not say this to my dear, for she is fighting it. God bless her! When I am gone, she will see the fruit of her labours. Three cheers for her! A Dieu. To God I commend you. Would I were His servant as you are. I wonder whether you have had my letters. I have written by every mail.[214]

(To the same.) 10 South Street, July 17 [1885]. Yesterday the Guards Camel Corps and the Heavies marched into London, after having been reviewed by the Queen at Osborne. Sir Harry went to see them inspected by the Commander-in-Chief at Wellington Barracks. (I would have given anything to have seen the Meeting with their comrades if I had been well enough to go.) And he said it was the most affecting thing he ever saw. These were the men who marched across the Bayuda Desert—a handful of men taking tender care of their handful of wounded, attacked by twelve times their number—and reached the Nile below Khartoum; but when the steamer reached Khartoum, Khartoum had fallen and Gordon was dead. There is a picture of Gordon called “The Last Watch,” where he is watching on the ramparts, the last night. It is very fine. He is unseen and[351] alone; there is the far-off look in his eyes of solemn happiness at his reunion with God, so near, of deep grief for the poor black populations whom he has to leave to their misery, and whom he has failed to extricate; and yet of abiding, faithful trust in God that He will do all things for the best. It was his constant prayer—first for God's glory, then for these people's welfare, and his own humiliation—that is, that he should feel the more, himself being humbled, the indwelling God in himself. Have the little Lives of Gordon reached your men yet?[215]

Florence Nightingale was living her Crimean life again in the life of her pupils. Many a little incident recalled the old days to her. One of the nurses wrote that in her hospital the supply of soap had given out. “Send to Cairo,” Miss Nightingale answered, “for any quantity you like, and I'll pay, but only if you can do it without embroiling yourself with the authorities.” Another of her pupils was nursing in the Citadel Hospital at Cairo. “I am on night duty now,” she wrote, “and I don't dislike it at all: in fact I enjoy trotting about this weird old place all by myself in the solemnity of the night! and now and then hearing a low voice saying, ‘Sister, would you mind doing so and so,’ ‘Sister, can you give me something to ease my face,’ etc., etc., and then feeding the hungry enteric patients at stated times who open their mouths in turn like so many little birds!” The picture drawn in this letter, and the zest which it showed, pleased Miss Nightingale greatly, and she passed it on to old pupils at home. They were thrilled. Lucky Sybil! they said; she is doing work like the Chief's at Scutari! another Lady with the Lamp amid the glimmering gloom! And Miss Nightingale, who received from the medical authorities of the Army most satisfactory reports on the services rendered by her nurses, rejoiced in their successes and usefulness. She would have smiled upon any pupil “at the first stroke which passed what she could do.”

Yet with thankfulness that she had been able to show the way to others, there was mingled something of the wistful regrets of old age. There was much in the administrative[352] conduct of the nursing service at the front which she could have ordered better. There was a paragraph in a newspaper about the attractions of “afternoon tea in the nurses' tent” which pained her (though the reference here was not, I think, to any of her own Nightingale nurses). Encouraging, cheery, helpful to others, she was in herself sad and almost sombre. It was in vain that Mr. Jowett still enjoined her to dwell upon all that she had been able to do, upon the many blessings which had attended her work. “You will have felt General Gordon's death,” he wrote (Feb. 22), “as much as any one. What poor creatures most of us seem in comparison with him! But not you, not you!” But the note which she struck in her next Address to the Probationers was all of humility. Old friends and comrades were dying. In 1882 a dear friend of her girlhood—Madame Mohl—died in Paris. In the same year Dr. Farr died—one of the founders in this country of her favourite science of statistics, and an associate of hers in work with Sidney Herbert. One of the most valued of her allies in later Indian work—Sir Bartle Frere—died in 1884. In the previous year a yet older friend, and one of her wisest counsellors—Sir John McNeill—had died. He had sent her a copy of the last piece he wrote; the preface to a new edition of Sir Alexander Tulloch's Reply to the Chelsea Board, in which Sir John in turn replied to the version of that affair given by Mr. Kinglake.[216] Her letter to him, sent “with the deepest affection and veneration,” was in a sombre vein. The correspondence recalled old days, but again “How little permanent progress had been made!” She only, she began to feel, was left; and she so unworthy! What opportunities she had been given! How little use she had been able to make of them! There were “dark nights of the soul” when such self-reproaches were grievous. But some years of life would perhaps still be granted to her. She would consecrate them the more devotedly to higher service. “To-day,” she wrote (Christmas Day, 1885), “let me dedicate this poor old crumbling woman to Thee. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. I was Thy handmaid as a girl. How have I back-slidden!”




Nursing cannot be formulated like engineering. It cannot be numbered or registered like population.—Florence Nightingale (1890).

What can be done for the health of the home without the woman of the home? In the West, as in the East, women are needed as Rural Health Missioners.—Florence Nightingale (1893).

The period of Miss Nightingale's life covered in this chapter includes the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee; which was also what Miss Nightingale used to consider her Jubilee Year. She fixed her effectual call at February 7, 1837. In 1887 she had thus completed fifty years vowed to service. In August, a month of many memories to her, she looked back over the past and around her in the present, and was in a despondent mood:—

(Miss Nightingale to Mrs. S. Smith.) Claydon House, Aug. 5 [1887]. Dearest Aunt Mai—Thinking of you always, grieved for your suffering, hoping that you have still to enjoy. In this month 34 years ago you lodged me in Harley St. (Aug. 12). And in this month 31 years ago you returned me to England from Scutari (Aug. 7). And in this month 30 years ago the first Royal Commission was finished (Aug. 7). And since then, 30 years of work often cut to pieces but never destroyed. God bless you! In this month 26 years ago, Sidney Herbert died, after five years of work for us (Aug. 2). In this month 24 years ago, the work of the second Royal Commission (India) was finished. And in this month this year it seems all to have to be done again. And in this month this year the work at St. Thomas's Hospital seems all to have to be done again—changing Matrons—after 27 years. And in this month this year my powers seem all to have failed and old age set in. May the Father[354] Almighty, Irresistible—for Love is irresistible—whose work and none other's this is, conduct it always, as He has done, while I have misconducted it. May He do in us what He would have us do. God bless you, dearest Aunt Mai. As ever your old loving Flo.

And in this month, too, Florence Nightingale was to die; but nearly a quarter of a century of life was first granted to her, and for the greater part of the time she remained in full possession of her faculties. Though she might be an “old lady” to young nurses, others remarked that she looked wonderfully fresh and youthful for her years. If old age had set in, her powers had by no means failed, and in many directions her work, though sometimes sore beset, continued to prosper. We will take first in our survey her work in the nursing world.

The “change of matrons” at St. Thomas's Hospital, caused by the retirement of Mrs. Wardroper, was hardly such a tragedy as it seemed to Miss Nightingale. Mrs. Wardroper had done her work, and there were younger women competent to fill the place. Mr. Jowett often begged Miss Nightingale to remember that “there is no necessary man—or woman”—“not even,” as, greatly daring, he once added, “yourself.” But in this case the Chief of the Nightingale School was not yet retiring, and she would still be able to supervise it—perhaps even more closely under a new Matron. For many years Miss Nightingale continued to maintain the intimate touch with her School that has been described in an earlier chapter: seeing the Sisters constantly, making the personal acquaintance of nurses, conferring with their medical instructors, reading their diaries and examination papers. Her heart was even more closely in the work when she secured the appointment, as Mrs. Wardroper's successor, of her dear friend, Miss Pringle. Presently, however, there came what was a heavy blow to Miss Nightingale. Miss Pringle joined the Roman communion, and it was necessary that she should retire from the Matronship of St. Thomas's. The months of unsettlement before the conversion was made were full of grief to Miss Nightingale. Indeed her notes and meditations suggest that the “loss”[355] of her favourite pupil was one of the heaviest griefs of her life; but she loved her friend too well for the sorrow to leave any abiding bitterness. Over and over again in her meditations she wrote down lines from Clough's Qua Cursum Ventus. Miss Pringle was succeeded by Miss Gordon, an old pupil of the Nightingale School; she and Miss Nightingale speedily became the best of friends, and things went on much as before in the School. All these changes, with the delicate weighing of rival claims and sometimes with the worrying conflict of personal ambitions, caused Miss Nightingale heavy anxiety. Intensely conscientious, acutely sensitive, and seeing in every change a great potentiality of good or evil, she could not treat such things as mere matters of business. There have been Prime Ministers who could not sleep of nights under the sense of responsibility caused by ecclesiastical preferment; and to Miss Nightingale the selection of a Superintendent or a Home Sister was even as the appointment of a bishop.


The movement for District Nursing, which was always near to Miss Nightingale's heart, and which, in conjunction with Mr. Rathbone and others, she had done much to promote, received considerable extension by the action of Queen Victoria in 1887. The bulk of the sum presented as the “Women's Jubilee Gift” was devoted by the Queen to “the nursing the sick poor in their own homes by means of trained nurses.” She appointed the Duke of Westminster, Sir Rutherford Alcock, and Sir James Paget to be trustees of the Fund, and to advise upon its administration. Sir James Paget consulted Miss Nightingale, who, in several conversations, impressed upon him her view that the essential things were the training of nurses for the work, and the association of them in “Homes.” The lines of the “Metropolitan District Nursing Association,” which had for many years been largely supported by nurses trained in the Nightingale School and by grants from the Nightingale Fund, were adopted as the basis of the “Jubilee Institute for Nurses,” and the Association presently became affiliated[356] to the Institute. In an introduction which she contributed in 1890 to a book giving account of these matters,[217] Miss Nightingale struck a warning note. “The tendency is now to make a formula of nursing; a sort of literary expression. Now, no living thing can less lend itself to a formula than nursing. Nursing has to nurse living bodies and spirits. It must be sympathetic. It cannot be tested by public examinations, though it may be tested by current supervision.” The Royal Jubilee Institute in some ways advanced Miss Nightingale's cause, but she had misgivings. “Vexilla regis prodeunt; yes, but of which King?” Was the oriflamme, which was now beginning to wave above the nursing sisterhood, “of heavenly fire, or of terrestrial tissue?” “We are becoming the fashion,” Miss Nightingale was fond of saying; “we must be on our guard. Royalty is smiling on us; we must have a care.” Such misgivings were speedily to be justified.

The nursing world was for some years rent in twain by a dispute about Royal Charters and Registration. The controversy lasted for seven years (1886–93); Miss Nightingale was in the thick of it, and during the more critical period of the dispute (1891, 1892) it was her main public preoccupation. In 1886 the Hospitals Association[218] appointed a Committee to inquire into the possibility of establishing a General Register of Nurses. The Committee violently disagreed; in 1887 the majority retired, and the minority founded the British Nurses Association with a view to carrying forward a scheme of Registration. In 1888 the Hospitals Association appointed a second committee which proceeded to collect opinions from the various Nurse Training Schools. These Schools were for the most part opposed to the idea of a General Register; but there was difference of opinion among leaders alike in the medical profession and in the nursing world. “I have a terror,” wrote Miss Nightingale to Mr. Bonham Carter (April 20, 1889), “lest the B.N.A.'s and the anti-B.N.A.'s should form two hostile camps, judging one another by that test chiefly[357] or alone. This would be disastrous. The Unionists and the Home Rulers show us an example of what this is. They are two hostile camps, dividing families. It is like a craze. The test, e.g. even of a good doctor or of an acquaintance is, to which camp does he belong? Even a doctor, canvassing for an appointment, is asked whether he is Home Ruler or Unionist. I can remember nothing so distressing since the Reform Bill, which I remember very well, when the two sides would not meet each other at dinner.” I do not know that feeling between the pro-Registrationists and the anti-Registrationists went to the length of war-to-the-knife-and-fork; but the “Nurses' Battle” (as it was called in the newspapers) was hot and prolonged. From a fighting point of view, the two sides were fairly matched. On each side there were eminent doctors. The “anti's” had an advantage in that they included the greater number of those who had the longest and closest knowledge of nurse-training; but the “pro's” had a Princess at their head. The Princess Christian had accepted the presidency of the British Nurses Association; and when the time came for applying for a Charter, it was the Princess who petitioned the Queen. “This makes it awkward for us,” said Mr. Rathbone to Miss Nightingale; and undoubtedly it did. There were courtly personages even among Miss Nightingale's devoted adherents who were inclined to trim; and there were other persons, who, having never perhaps thought out the questions, were predisposed to do as the Princess did. Let each man in the battle have such credit as is due for his personal loyalty. “In any matter of nursing, Miss Nightingale is my Pope,” wrote Mr. Rathbone, “and I believe in her infallibility.” “Nothing can save us,” he said to Miss Nightingale herself, “except your intervention.” She was not slow to give it. Suggestions were made by intimate friends—Sir Henry Acland and Sir Harry Verney—that she should see the Princess Christian and endeavour to come to terms; and later on, in 1893, when the Empress Frederick visited Miss Nightingale, they renewed the suggestion. But the Princess Christian had made no overtures; she was committed to the particular scheme advocated by the Association of which she was President; and, to Miss Nightingale, opposition to[358] that scheme was a matter of vital principle. She threw herself into the fray with an equipment of argumentative resource derived from her unequalled experience, and with a passionate conviction inspired by long brooding over a fixed ideal.

The objects of the British Nurses Association were “to unite all qualified British Nurses in membership of a recognized Profession”; “to provide for their Registration on terms satisfactory to physicians and surgeons as evidence of their having received systematic training”; “to associate them for mutual help and protection and for the advantage in every way of their professional work”; and “with a view to the attainment of these objects, to obtain a Royal Charter incorporating the Association and authorizing the formation of a Register.”[219] It was around the second and the fourth of these objects that the principal battle raged. The case of the Association was prima facie a strong one. A Register of Nurses, duly certified as competent, would, it was argued, be a protection against impostors. The certification was to be by a Board which would insist on a certain standard of professional proficiency. Three years' training in a hospital was suggested as the preliminary test. The case, on the other side, as developed by Miss Nightingale and her allies, was that the apparent advantages of a Register were deceptive. Who was to be protected? Not the hospitals: they protected themselves, without any general register, by their own methods. If any one was to be protected, it must be the public; but the Register would rather mislead than protect them. The placing of a name on a register would, at best, only certify that at a certain date the nurse had satisfied the required tests; but the date might be long ago, and the fact of registration would tell nothing of her subsequent conduct or competence. The registration of midwives stood on a different footing from that of nurses; for in the former case, a certain definite technical skill is of the essence of the matter: in the case of nursing, character is as much of its essence as any technical qualification. As for the three years' training in a hospital, there were hospitals and hospitals, training-schools and training-schools; and who was to[359] guarantee the guarantors? The General Register would not raise the profession of nursing; it would do an injury to the better nurses by putting them on a level with the worse, and to the profession by stereotyping a minimum standard. The British Nurses Association had published a preliminary “register.” Miss Nightingale analysed it, and found that in the case of nurses “trained” at one hospital, the private Register of that Hospital excluded nearly one-third of those entered on the B.N.A.'s register; and that another Hospital's Register included, as “duly certificated,” only one-third of those entered on the B.N.A.'s register as trained thereat. “You cannot select the good from the inferior by any test or system of examination. But most of all, and first of all, must their moral qualifications be made to stand pre-eminent in estimation. All this can only be secured by the current supervision, tests, or examination which they receive in their training-school or hospital, not by any examination from a foreign body like that proposed by the British Nurses Association. Indeed, those who come best off in such would probably be the ready and forward, not the best nurses.”[220] The much vexed question of “internal” or “external” examination was, it will be seen, involved in this dispute. But to Miss Nightingale a larger and a more vital issue was at stake. It was a conflict between two ideals—or rather, as she would have said, between a high ideal and a material expediency. Mr. Jowett, though he agreed in her view “that nurses cannot be registered and examined any more than mothers,” was distressed that she was so greatly perturbed over what seemed to him so small a matter. “It is a comparative trifle,” he wrote (May 26, 1892), “among all the work which you have done, and you must not be over-anxious.” To Miss Nightingale it was not a trifle, but a trial—a possible parting of the ways. It was diverting attention from training-homes to examination-tests; it was sacrificing a high calling to professional advancement. “There comes a crisis,” she wrote to Mr. Jowett (May), “in the lives of all social movements, rough-hew them as you will, when the amateur and outward and[360] certifying or registering spirit comes in on the one side, and the mercantile or buying-and-selling spirit on the other. This has come in the case of Nursing in about 30 years; for Nursing was born about 30 years ago. The present trial is not persecution but fashion; and this brings in all sorts of amateur alloy, and public life instead of the life of a calling, and registering instead of training. On the other hand, an extra mercantile spirit has come in—of forcing up wages, regardless of the truism that Nursing has been raised from the sink it was, not more by training, than by making the Hospital, Workhouse Infirmary, or District Home a place of moral and healthful safe-guards, inspiring a sense of duty and love of the calling.” The true way of “protecting the public” was “to extend Homes for Private Nurses on sound lines, aided by the Nurses' Training Schools and Hospitals”; not, by means of a Chartered Register, to encourage nurses “to flock to the Institutions which gave the easiest certificate at the least trouble of training.” Miss Nightingale could not, then, regard the dispute as a trifle. It caused her days and nights of grievous anxiety. Her meditations are full of despondency and searchings of heart both bitter and self-reproachful. The Princess Christian, with the best intentions, was giving her name to undermine Miss Nightingale's ideal. This could not justly be attributed in blame to the Princess; the fault must have been with her, Florence Nightingale, who had misused her opportunities, and had failed to impress her ideal on other minds. She was an unprofitable servant. But here, as in all things, the sensitive reproaches of the night-watches left no trace of themselves on the work of the day; or rather, they left their trace in greater activity and devotion.

It was in 1889 that the occasion came for resolute action. The British Nurses Association announced their intention of applying for a Charter, and proceeded to enlist public support. Miss Nightingale set to work on the other side. She made the acquaintance at this time of Miss Lückes, then, as now (1913), the Matron of the London Hospital, who was strongly opposed to the idea of registration. The acquaintance speedily ripened into friendship, and henceforth Miss Nightingale was looked to for support[361] and sympathy by the Matron of the London, hardly less than by her of St. Thomas's. Other nurse-training schools came into line, and a manifesto was issued announcing their intention to oppose any petition for a Charter. There was desultory skirmishing for some time between the Registrationists and anti-Registrationists. There was a lively polemic in the newspapers. There were as many fly-sheets and pamphlets as if it were a theological dispute in a University.[221] In 1891 the British Nurses Association applied to the Board of Trade to be registered as a Public Company, without the addition of the word “Limited” to its name. The Memorandum and proposed Articles of Association were duly filed, and the foremost place was again given, among the declared objects, to a register of trained nurses, and to power to determine from time to time the test for registration. Miss Nightingale and her allies took up the challenge. Through Sir Harry Verney she approached the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) with a statement of the case against the Association. A counter-petition was presented; and after full consideration the Board refused the application. The first engagement had thus resulted in a victory for Miss Nightingale. In the same year there was a Committee of the House of Lords to inquire into the London Hospitals. Mr. Rathbone, coached by Miss Nightingale, gave evidence on the question of the registration of nurses, and the Committee reported against it. A second victory! But the Registrationists now brought up their most formidable reserves. Permission was obtained from the Sovereign to use the title “Royal.” Thus strengthened by favour in the highest quarter, the Royal British Nurses Association petitioned the Queen for a Royal Charter. The petition was referred in the usual course to a special Committee of the Privy Council, and the two sides marshalled their forces. A campaign fund was raised by the anti-Registrationists. Miss Nightingale appealed privately to the Lord President of the Council and wrote[362] various letters, Memoranda, Statements. She enlisted support from the medical profession. Her old pupils, now in charge of nurse-training schools throughout the country, rallied round her. Two petitions, of special weight, were presented to the Privy Council against the Charter. One was from the Council of the Nightingale Fund, the body which had been the pioneer in promoting the training of nurses. The other was the “Petition of Executive Officers, Matrons, Lady Superintendents, and Principal Assistants of the London and Provincial Hospitals and Nurse Training Schools, and of Members of the Medical Profession and Ladies directly connected with Nursing and the Training of Nurses.” The list of signatures, which occupies twenty-three folio pages, was headed by “Florence Nightingale.” In the preparation of these documents, Miss Nightingale had a large share, though much of the work—especially in the instruction of the lawyers, in consultations and so forth—was done by Mr. Bonham Carter.

The Committee of the Privy Council sat in November 1892 to hear the case.[222] Of the first day's proceedings Miss Nightingale wrote an account in which, as will be seen, she did not let the Registrationist dogs have the better of it, but which betrays at the same time serious anxiety about the result:—

(Miss Nightingale to Sir Harry Verney.) 10 South Street, Nov. 22 [1892]. Yesterday was the first day of the Privy Council Trial. We had to change our senior counsel at the last moment, because Mr. Finlay was engaged on an Election Committee. And our previous four days were, therefore, as you may suppose, very busy. We were fortunate enough to have Sir Richard Webster. Sir Horace Davey opened the Ball on behalf of Princess Christian. His speech was dull, and contained only the commonplaces we have heard for a year in favour of the Royal Charter. The Judges were: Lord Ripon (who only stayed half the time), Lord Monson, and two Law Lords [Lord Hannen and Lord Hobhouse]. They appeared to have been chosen as knowing nothing of the matter and as not having been on the Lords Committee on Hospitals. Our side, Sir Richard Webster, followed with a masterly speech—masterly from being[363] that of a shrewd man of sense, without rhetoric, and from his splendid getting up of our case at short notice. He put very strongly our contention that character, unregistrable, rather than technical training, makes the nurse, and other of our points. The Judges adjourned till Monday in the middle of his speech where he was saying as we do—What is the use of saying that a Nurse has had 3 years' training at such a Hospital? how can you certify the Hospital? He will resume this subject and others on Monday. The Judges asked all the questions—not to the point—that you can fancy men perfectly ignorant of the subject to ask, and which we have answered over and over again. Sir Richard Webster said to Bonham Carter at the end of yesterday, “The judges are dead against us.” The Charter pledges itself to admit on the Register only nurses of three years' Hospital training—which the Judges pronounced could do no harm. But it provides for itself what may put into its hands the whole control of what constitutes training. Is it not wonderful these men do not see this? Well, “we are in God's hands, brother, not in theirs” (the Privy Council's). In all my strange life through which God has guided me so faithfully (O that I had been as faithful to Him as He to me!), this is the strangest episode of all—to see a number of Doctors of the highest eminence giving their names to what they know nothing at all about. Sir James Paget told me himself that the names were asked for at a Court Ball,—following each other like a flock of sheep; to see their Council of Registration made up of Sirs, only one of whom knows anything about nurse-training (Sir James Paget himself asked me, why can't nurses lodge out as students do!!); to see these able, good, and shrewd men ignoring that such a thing is sure to fall into a clique. They have let Princess Christian fall into such an one already. She is made a tool of by two or three people. “Lift up your heads, ye gates, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong in battle.” O God of Battles, steel thy soldiers' hearts against happy-go-luckiness, against courtiership, fashion, and mere money-making on the part of the Nurses and their Societies! P.S. This trial will cost us £700 at least.

The Committee took time to consider their advice to Her Majesty. In May 1893 the decision was announced. The Committee advised Her Majesty in Council to grant a Charter in accordance with a Draft revised by them. On June 6 the Charter was granted.

Each side claimed the victory. The Nursing Record (June 15)—an organ of the Registrationists—claimed that[364] they had won all, and even more than all, that they asked, and declared proudly that henceforth “members of the Royal Chartered Association will hold a higher position than any others.” The Hospital, on the other side, argued that all this was ill-founded, but if the “British Nurses” wanted to be congratulated on nothing, “we are willing to congratulate them” (June 24). The fight before the Privy Council now became a fight in the press on the meaning of the verdict. The anti-Registrationists, headed by Miss Nightingale and the Duke of Westminster, put their interpretation in a quiet letter to the Times (July 3), which the Royal British Nurses Association hotly denounced as “untrue in fact and injurious in intention” (July 6). The fact was that the Lords of the Council had steered a middle course. They granted the Charter; but in it for the words “the maintenance of a list or register of nurses, showing as to each nurse registered,” etc., they substituted the words “the maintenance of a list of persons who may have applied to have their names entered therein as nurses,” etc. There was nothing in the Charter which gave any nurse the right to call herself “chartered” or “registered.” What the promoters hoped we need not discuss; what the opponents feared was a Charter in such terms as would give the Corporation an authoritative, and perhaps ultimately, an exclusive right to register nurses, and thereby would give it also indirect control over nurse-training. No such Charter was obtained; and in this sense the opposition of Miss Nightingale and her friends had prevailed. The controversy is not dead; but, so far, her view has continued to prevail,[223] and the official registration of nurses is still a pious hope to its supporters, a heresy to its opponents. Miss Nightingale greatly deplored the feud, but sought to bring good out of evil. “Forty years hence,” she wrote to Mr. Rathbone (Feb. 26, 1891), “such a scheme might not be preposterous, provided the intermediate time be diligently and successfully employed in levelling up, that is, in making all nurses at least equal to the best trained nurses of this day, and in levelling up Training Schools in like manner.” “Great good may be done,” she wrote to[365] Mr. Jowett (May 1892), “by rousing our side to an increased earnestness about (1) providing Homes for Nurses while engaged in their work of nursing, and (2) full private Hospital Registers, tracing the careers of nurses trained by them.” There were no years in which Miss Nightingale herself gave more thought and trouble, than in 1891–3, to personal care for the affairs of the Nightingale School.

In a Paper which Miss Nightingale was invited to contribute to a Congress on Women's Work, held at Chicago in 1893, she treated the whole subject of nursing.[224] This paper embodies in a methodical form her characteristic views, and in it she takes occasion in several places to touch obliquely upon the controversy described in preceding pages. “A new art, and a new science, has been created since and within the last forty years. And with it a new profession—so they say; we say, calling.” She dwells on the conditions necessary to make a good training school for nurses. She dilates upon the dangers to which nursing is subject. These are “Fashion on the one side, and a consequent want of earnestness; mere money-getting on the other side; and a mechanical view of nursing.” “Can it be possible that a testimonial or certificate of three years' so-called training or service from a hospital—any hospital with a certain number of beds—can be accepted as sufficient to certify a nurse for a place in a public register? As well might we not take a certificate from any garden of a certain number of acres, that plants are certified valuable if they have been three years in the garden?” Then there was “imminent danger of stereotyping instead of progressing. No system can endure that does not march. Objects of registration not capable of being gained by a public register!” The whole paper is written with a good deal of gusto. The volume in which it appeared was dedicated to Princess Christian.

In the following year Miss Nightingale had some correspondence with the Princess, who, as President of the Royal British Nurses Association, had made a scheme for enrolling a “War Nursing Reserve” through the Hospitals, and had written to consult Miss Nightingale about it. The Hospital Sisters were according to this scheme to be placed “in[366] subordination to the Army Sisters”—nurses with the larger experience under those with the smaller. This seemed to Miss Nightingale a mistake; and she noted other details in which the scheme appeared to her inadequately considered. She pointed these things out faithfully to the Princess, but the correspondence on both sides was cordial. The letters from the Princess made Miss Nightingale exclaim, “How gracefully Royalty can do things!” And on her part she desired to be conciliatory. “We should, I think, be earnestly anxious,” she wrote, “to do what we can for Princess Christian as she holds out the flag of truce, in order to put an end as far as we can to all this bickering, which does such harm to the cause.”

There were thoughts in Miss Nightingale's mind throughout this controversy still deeper than any which have yet been noticed. She had an esoteric conception of Nursing which made her regard the view of it as a registrable business in the light almost of sacrilege. “A profession, so they say; we say, calling.” And not only a calling, but a form through which religious satisfaction might be found. Her view comes out in a letter which she wrote to Mr. Jowett in 1889 in the course of a discussion with him upon the necessity of external forms for the religious life: “You say that ‘mystical or spiritual religion is not enough for most people without outward form.’ And I may say I can never remember a time when it was not the question of my life. Not so much for myself as for others. For myself the mystical or spiritual religion as laid down by St. John's Gospel, however imperfectly I have lived up to it, was and is enough. But the two thoughts which God has given me all my whole life have been—First, to infuse the mystical religion into the forms of others (always thinking they would show it forth much better than I), especially among women, to make them the ‘handmaids of the Lord.’ Secondly, to give them an organization for their activity in which they could be trained to be the ‘handmaids of the Lord.’ (Training for women was then unknown, unwished for, and is the discovery of the last thirty years. One could have taken up the school education of the poor, but one was specially called then to hospitals and nursing—both sanitation and[367] nursing proper.) This was then the ‘organization’ which we had to begin with, to attract respectable women and give religious women a ‘form’ for their activity.… When very many years ago I planned a future, my one idea was not organizing a Hospital, but organizing a Religion.” Now, “handmaids of the Lord” cannot be certified by external examiners, nor can a religious service be guaranteed by registers.

Does this view of the matter seem a little transcendental? It was in accord, at any rate, with another of Miss Nightingale's fundamental doctrines, which in its application to the controversy had a severely practical force. Nursing, she held, is a progressive art, in which to stand still is to go back. No note is more often struck in her Addresses to Nurses. She held, as may already have been gathered from the foregoing summary of her case, that the Registrationists, consciously or unconsciously, had lost hold of that essential truth about nursing. It was right that precautions should be taken against impostors, and that the fullest inquiries should be made. Miss Nightingale's objection was not to the precautions, but to their misleading nature; not to the tests, but to their inadequacy. The only real and sufficient guarantee, in the case of an art in which the training, both technical and moral, is a continuous process, was, she held, that the public should be able to obtain a recent recommendation of the nurse, who was to be passed on from one doctor, hospital, or superintendent to another with something of the same elaborate record of work and character that she herself required in the case of Nightingale Probationers and Nurses.


The fate of Miss Nightingale's work in the cause of Public Health both in India and at home was chequered during these years, even as was that in the cause of trained nursing, but here again substantial advance was made in several directions. There was once a Secretary of State who entered the India Office possessed by a strong and personal interest in sanitation. There was some excitement in the Office.[368] There were one or two men around the Minister who heartily approved; there were more who shook their heads. The Minister must have been listening, they thought, directly or indirectly, to a certain lady's “beautiful nonsense.” He was too impressionable. He was anxious to do things, in spite of the claims of economy. He was too much in a hurry. They took him in hand in order to quiet him down. They thought to have succeeded in making him satisfied to leave things as they were. The other side became conscious of a change. “It is essential,” wrote one of them to a certain lady, “that you should see him at once.” The lady, who was the hope of one side and the fear of the other, was Miss Nightingale. The Minister need not be identified; for these things, though true also of a particular case and time, are here given as a general allegory. For thirty years and more, through all changes and chances in the political world, Miss Nightingale was a permanent force, importuning, indoctrinating, inspiring, in the interests of better sanitary administration.

For some time after the early months of 1885 the political situation was very unsettled. The Government formed by Lord Salisbury after the defeat of Mr. Gladstone in June was only a “Cabinet of Caretakers,” and it was not worth Miss Nightingale's while to approach any of them. Besides, she instinctively recognized the Secretary of State for India as a hopeless subject. She was right. Lord Randolph Churchill was all against Lord Ripon, and all for economy. When Lord Salisbury's Government was in turn overthrown, after the general election in December, Miss Nightingale, through various channels, approached Mr. Gladstone, and begged him to send Lord Ripon to the India Office. He returned polite but evasive answers, and so controversial an appointment was obviously improbable. Lord Ripon went to the Admiralty. The excitement of the first Home Rule Bill followed; the Government was defeated; another general election was necessary, and all was in confusion. Dr. Sutherland, anxious to retire from the public service (for he was now nearly 80), was pressing Miss Nightingale to devise measures for safeguarding his department after he was gone. She pressed him to stay on yet a while.[369] “During the political earthquakes of the last 8 months, still continuing, no permanent interest can be expected,” she wrote to him (July 20, 1886), “in those who are so little permanent. The subject excruciates me.” Lord Ripon, who came to see her ten days later, thought that the times were unpropitious generally for good causes—an opinion which defeated Ministers are apt to hold. “There are waves in these matters,” he said. “The thing is to come in upon the crest of the waves. You would have done nothing for the Army and Sanitation if it had not been for the crash in the Crimea. Now, the wave is against India.”

Miss Nightingale, however, did not allow herself to be tempted into inactivity by this wave-theory. For the moment, indeed, there was nothing to be done with Ministers at home; but she had not been neglectful of cultivating relations with Anglo-Indians and Indians in positions of influence. In 1885 she had added Sir Neville Chamberlain and Sir Peter Lumsden to her list of Anglo-Indian acquaintances. Lord Reay had called upon her (March 1885) before leaving to take up the governorship of Bombay, and she corresponded with him frequently on sanitary subjects. In October, Lord Roberts came before going out to India as Commander-in-Chief. Miss Nightingale took great pains with this interview, Dr. Sutherland having furnished her in advance with an admirable synopsis of what might still be done to improve the health and welfare of the troops. Lord Roberts's command was fruitful of some reforms in which Miss Nightingale had been a pioneer. He established a club or institute in every British regiment and battery in India. He closed canteens. He opened coffee-stalls. He established an Army Temperance Association.[225] No letter which Miss Nightingale received in her Jubilee Year can have pleased her more than one which the Commander-in-Chief in India sent her from Simla on August 6. In this letter Lord Roberts told her that the Government of India had sanctioned the employment of female nurses in the Military Hospitals. A commencement was to be made at the two large military centres of Umballa and Rawalpindi, and 18[370] nurses, with lady superintendents in each case, were to be sent out from England at once. The selection of nurses was entrusted to Surgeon-General Arthur Payne, who in the following month had several interviews with Miss Nightingale. Thus, after twenty-two years, was the scheme which she had put before Sir John Lawrence brought to fruition. Miss Nightingale saw the Superintendents before they went out, and letters from them were now added to the pile of those which she received from hospitals throughout the world, reporting progress or asking advice. Miss C. G. Loch wrote from Rawalpindi (April 12, 1888) describing how she had found that, as Miss Nightingale always said, the education of the Orderlies was the most important thing for the nurses to do.

The official introduction of female nursing into the Indian military hospitals was by no means the only satisfaction which Miss Nightingale received during Lord Dufferin's Viceroyalty. He had declared himself ignorant of Indian sanitary things, but had promised to learn; and not only was he as good as his word, but Lady Dufferin was keenly interested also. She founded the “National Association for Supplying Medical Aid to the Women of India.” Miss Nightingale had long been interested in the subject, and Lady Dufferin consulted her at every stage. One of the first things needful, Lady Dufferin had written (Sept. 19, 1885), was a supply of Sanitary Tracts. “In using the word tract, I am thinking of some little books in Hindustani written by A.L.O.E. which I am obliged to read as part of my studies in the language. They are stories with a moral, and I don't see why something of the kind might not be published with health as a moral.” Miss Nightingale took great pains in collecting suitable raw material, and during the remainder of Lord Dufferin's Viceroyalty wrote to her by almost every mail.


Yet more was to be “fired,” during Lord Dufferin's Viceroyalty, of sanitary “shot” supplied, as he had requested, by Miss Nightingale; but we must now turn back[371] to London, where, partly from circumstances and partly of necessity, Miss Nightingale was presently engaged in a vigorous campaign. There is a large bundle of correspondence during these years upon a matter which is referred to in some of the letters as “The Sutherland Succession.” Now, Dr. Sutherland was in Miss Nightingale's eyes the indispensable man. Not any longer in the personal sense, as described in an earlier chapter; for he was now a very old man, and was only able to help her on rare occasions. She had already found a successor in this personal sense, or rather she had put Dr. Sutherland's place into commission. Sir William Wedderburn was during these later years her most constant collaborator in Indian matters, and for the rest she relied upon Sir Douglas Galton.[226] She had often chafed at Dr. Sutherland's delays, but I expect that when Sir Douglas succeeded to him she may in one respect have parodied to herself the well-known Cambridge epigram, and said, “Poor Dr. Sutherland! we never felt his loss before.” For Sir Douglas Galton, though devoted also to Miss Nightingale's service, was an exceedingly busy and much-travelling man, and she had to be content with the crumbs of his time. “As it was some time in the dark ages,” she wrote (May 13, 1887), “since I saw you last—my memory impaired by years cannot fix the date within a decade—I seize the first day you kindly offer.” And again (Dec. 3, 1889): “I must take your leavings, as beggars must not be choosers. Yes, please, your dog will see you to-morrow on your way from Euston for as long as you can stop.” Miss Nightingale relied greatly on Sir Douglas Galton's advice; she had a very high opinion, not only of his thorough knowledge of all sanitary subjects, but of his sound judgment generally. From the personal point of view, then, Dr. Sutherland was gone already; but in his official capacity he was still indispensable. He was the mainspring of the system of sanitary administration, both for the home Army and for India, which Miss Nightingale had built up. He was the one paid working member, and he was also the working brain, of the Army Sanitary Committee, and it was to that Committee that Indian sanitary reports were[372] referred. But he was impatient to retire. At any moment his health might become worse, and he might send in his resignation before arrangements had been made for the appointment of a successor. So long as he remained at his post, no changes were likely to be made; but if he retired, it was very probable that no successor would be appointed, and that the whole system would collapse. That the heads of the Army were ignorant of Dr. Sutherland's services, had been burnt in upon Miss Nightingale's mind a few years before. In discussing some matter of army nursing with the minister of the day, she had suggested the reference of it to Dr. Sutherland. “Who is he?” said the minister; “I have never heard of him.” At the India Office it was much the same. “I don't think,” wrote a friend (Sept. 8, 1886), “that this office in general appreciates the importance of those reviews of Indian sanitary matters of which Dr. Sutherland has been the real author hitherto.” The whole system would lapse, he feared, unless she was able to do something.

Nor was this all. The sanitary service in India itself was in danger. The annexation of Burma had made retrenchment necessary; a Finance Committee was at work in recommending economies; and Miss Nightingale received private information that the Sanitary Commissioners were marked down by the Committee for destruction. The whole edifice thus seemed to be crumbling. This was what she had in her mind when, in the Jubilee retrospect quoted at the beginning of the chapter, she said that the work of thirty years had all to be done again.

She turned with all her old energy to efforts commensurate to the threatened calamity. In accordance with her usual method, she first consulted many influential friends (Lord Ripon amongst others), and then acted with great energy. She wrote a long statement to Lord Dufferin (Nov. 5). “I have sent your letter in extenso,” he replied (Jan. 18, 1887), “to the head of the Finance Committee. You should understand that it does not at all follow, because the Committee recommend a thing, that their recommendation will, as a matter of course, be accepted by the Government. On the contrary, I will go most carefully into this[373] question in which you naturally take so deep an interest, and will be careful to have it thoroughly discussed in Council by my colleagues with the advantage of having had your views placed before them.” A few months later came welcome news:—

(Lord Dufferin to Miss Nightingale.) Simla, August 20 [1887]. I write you a little line to tell you that the Indian Government have finally determined not to sanction the proposals of the Finance Commission for the abolition of the Sanitary Commissioners, about which you were naturally alarmed. There is no doubt that the Finance Commission was in a position to prove that these officers had been able to do very little, owing to the unwillingness, or rather the inability of the local Authorities to supply funds, and in some cases to their own listlessness and want of energy. We are now, however, taking the question up, and the result of the attack upon your protégés will be, not their disappearance, but their being compelled to give us the worth of the money we spend upon them. I am also inviting all the local governments to put the whole subject of sanitation upon a more satisfactory footing, and to establish a system of concerted action and a well-worked-out programme in accordance with which from year to year their operations are to be conducted. I cannot say how grateful I am to Sir Harry Verney for his kindness in writing me such interesting and pleasant letters. In them he tells me from time to time, I am afraid I cannot say of your well-being, but of your unflagging energy in the pursuit of your noble and useful aims.

Meanwhile Miss Nightingale had been busy with Ministers at home. In the latter half of 1886 Lord Salisbury's Government was firmly seated, and she received visits from the Secretaries of State for India and for War (Lord Cross and Mr. W. H. Smith). She found Lord Cross most sympathetic; he saw her from time to time during following years, and they had a good deal of correspondence. To Mr. W. H. Smith she paid her highest compliment; in some ways he reminded her, she said in her notes, of Sidney Herbert. Superficially, and in several of their real characteristics, no two men could be more unlike; but in certain respects Mr. Smith resembled her ideal of a War Minister. He had a sincere concern for the welfare, alike physical and moral, of the soldiers; and he showed a quick and industrious[374] aptitude for administrative detail. She saw Mr. Smith several times, and at his request had an interview with the Chaplain-General.[227] It seemed as if the work, which she had done with Sidney Herbert, might be resumed with Mr. Smith, when there was a thunder-clap from a clear sky. Lord Randolph Churchill resigned. The Ministry was for a while in confusion, and Miss Nightingale in despair. “We are unlucky,” she wrote to Sir Douglas Galton (Dec. 23). “As soon as we seem to have got hold of two Secretaries of State, this Randolph goes out! The Cabinet will have to be remodelled, and perhaps we shall lose our men. All the more reason for doing something at once.” Of her two “men,” the one was taken, the other left. Mr. W. H. Smith became First Lord of the Treasury, but Lord Cross remained at the India Office. “I am very sorry to give up the War Office,” said Mr. Smith to Miss Nightingale, “but I am told it is my duty, and duty leaves no choice.” She begged him to indoctrinate his successor, Mr. Edward Stanhope. She was already acquainted with him, and presently he came to see her. It was with peculiar satisfaction that she presently heard of the Government's intention to take a loan for four millions for the building of new barracks and the reconstruction of old ones. This was a resumption of the work of Sidney Herbert, thirty years after.[228]

An early intimation of this policy made Miss Nightingale the more anxious about the fate of the Army Sanitary Committee. If the sanitary condition of the barracks was to be improved, it was all-important that a strong Sanitary Committee should be in existence to supervise the work. At first, however, she had been unable to secure any promise about the Sutherland Succession. The War Office would[375] not consider the matter until a vacancy occurred; the India Office would do nothing until it knew what the War Office meant to do. In 1888 the long threatened thing happened. Dr. Sutherland resigned. No successor was appointed. The whole subject, she was informed, was under consideration, and then under reconsideration. Ultimately Mr. Stanhope, after interviews with Miss Nightingale, reconstituted the Committee (June 1890). Sir Douglas Galton remained upon it. Dr. J. Marston was appointed paid member in succession to Dr. Sutherland, and Miss Nightingale's friend and ally, Surgeon-General J. W. Cunningham (formerly Sanitary Commissioner with the Government of India) was appointed as an Indian expert. Her friend Mr. J. J. Frederick retained his post as Secretary to the Committee. The danger was overpast.


Sanitary reports from India were still to be referred to the Committee, but Miss Nightingale and some of her friends thought that the time had come for an advance in India. Lord Cross was so sympathetic that the occasion seemed opportune for reviving her former plea for a sanitary department in India which should be more directly executive. Sir Henry Cunningham (married to a niece of Sir Harry Verney) had been in communication with her for some years. He was a judge of the High Court of Calcutta, and had taken an active part in the cause of sanitation in that city. He now prepared a memorandum advocating a forward policy. Miss Nightingale's ally on the India Council, Sir Henry Yule, prepared another, which was so far approved by the Secretary of State that he ordered it to be circulated in the Office as the draft of a proposed dispatch to the Government of India. This draft was, in fact, the joint production of Sir Henry Cunningham, Colonel Yule, and Miss Nightingale. It went the rounds. It was minuted on. It was considered and reconsidered; printed and reprinted. Sometimes the report to Miss Nightingale was that it would be adopted and sent; at other times, that it had been postponed for further revision, recirculation, and reconsideration. Ultimately[376] it became in some sort out of date, because the Government of India took a step on its own motion, in accordance with the intention which Lord Dufferin had already communicated to Miss Nightingale (p. 373). By Resolution, dated July 27, 1888, the Government of India provided for the constitution of a Sanitary Board in every province, which would not only advise the Government and local authorities upon sanitary measures, but would also be an executive agency. The passages in which the latter point is insisted upon might have been written by Miss Nightingale herself.[229] Lord Dufferin's term of office was now drawing to a close. He had proved himself an apt pupil of the “Governess of Governors-General.” As on the voyage out he had promised to do her bidding, so now on the voyage home he gave some account of his stewardship:—

(Lord Dufferin to Miss Nightingale.) SS. Kaiser-i-Hind at sea, Dec. 26 [1888]. We are now on our way home and are having a beautiful passage, thanks to which we are all picking up wonderfully, and shall arrive in Europe quite rejuvenated. This is merely a line to apologise for having sent you the Report of a speech I made at Calcutta recently. I would not have troubled you with it, were it not that on page 15 I have tried to give a parting lift to sanitation.[230] My ladies go home at once, but I, alas, am compelled to take up my business at Rome, so that I shall not get my holiday for another two or three months. Amongst the first persons whose hands I hope to come and kiss will be yours.

Lord Dufferin was succeeded by Lord Lansdowne, who was introduced to Miss Nightingale by Mr. Jowett.[377] She saw Lord Lansdowne twice before he left for India, and they corresponded frequently on sanitary affairs. “He did much for us in every way” is her comment on his Viceroyalty.


The constitution of the Sanitary Boards in India proceeded with due regard to “the periods of Indian cosmogony,” and Miss Nightingale watched their formation and their proceedings carefully, putting in words of encouragement, expostulation, or reminder, whenever and wherever an opportunity was offered or could be made. It was soon apparent that the great obstacle to sanitary progress among the masses of India lay, where perhaps for many generations it is still likely to lie, in the immobility of immemorial custom, especially in the villages. Education was making some slight impression, but the force of passive resistance, combined with lack of funds, prevented the hope of any rapid or signal advance. Recognition of these factors now led Miss Nightingale to concentrate her efforts upon Village Sanitation, and a scheme for combining the power of education with a financial expedient formed the motive for the last of her Indian campaigns.

Miss Nightingale had been watching with the closest attention the Bombay Village Sanitation Bill, a measure first projected in 1887. She analysed and criticized it, and sent her views to Lord Cross at the India Office, and to Lord Lansdowne and Lord Reay in India. Her main objection was to the exclusion from the scope of the Bill of the smaller villages, an exclusion which did not figure in the revised draft of 1889. She wrote letters for circulation in India to Native Associations in explanation and support of Village Sanitation.[231] There was some slight stirring of Indian opinion, and Miss Nightingale's next concern was to give to it articulate expression in London. The holding of an International Congress of Hygiene and Demography in the autumn of 1891 furnished an opportunity. Sir Douglas Galton was Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Congress, so that there was no difficulty in arranging for[378] an Indian section. Miss Nightingale then circularized the Native Association in Bombay, begging that representatives might be sent to the Congress, and papers be contributed by Indian gentlemen. This was done, and Miss Nightingale interested herself greatly in the Congress. “Sir Harry Verney,” she wrote to Sir Douglas Galton (Aug. 1, 1891), “renews his invitations to Claydon to the native Indian delegates, ‘three or four at a time.’ I have seen Mr. Bhownaggree, who seems to be acting for the other native gentlemen, not yet come, and asked him to manage this, as is most suitable to these gentlemen. I may hope to see them one by one, if I am able to be there. I have also seen (of Delegates) Sir William Moore and Dr. Payne and Sir W. Wedderburn. Mr. Digby seems to be doing a great work.[232] Do you remember that it is 30 years to-morrow since Sidney Herbert died?” The Congress was opened by the Prince of Wales (Aug. 10), whose speech on the occasion formed the text of many leading articles in the press. People talked, he said, of “preventable diseases”; but “if preventable, why not prevented?” It was, however, in the Indian section that Miss Nightingale was most interested, and she used it to promote her schemes. The Bombay Village Sanitation Act was failing to produce the desired results because there were no funds definitely allocated to sanitation. Sanitary education was making some little progress, but not enough, in view of the poverty of Indian villages, to make it likely that additional taxation would be borne. In these circumstances might not some portion of the existing taxation (the village “cesses”) be appropriated to sanitation as a first charge? “Until the minimum of sanitation is completed, until the cess of a particular village has been appropriated to it, while typhoidal or choleraic disease is still prevalent, should not the claims for any general purposes be postponed?” Such was Miss Nightingale's case. She had a memorandum drawn up embodying it in short form, and canvassed for signatures to it among members of the Indian section of the Congress. Sir Douglas Galton, Sir George Birdwood, Sir William[379] Guyer Hunter, Sir William Wedderburn, Dr. Corfield, and Dr. Poore were among those who signed it. Miss Nightingale then forwarded the Memorandum, with a covering letter going more fully into the case, to the Secretary of State. She wrote at the same time to the Governor-General and to the Governor of Bombay. Lord Cross received the communication very sympathetically, and forwarded it at once (April 1892) to the Government of India. Lord Lansdowne then circulated Miss Nightingale's dispatch among the Local Governments, and during following years a formidable mass of printed Papers accumulated, “Reporting on the Proposals made by Miss Nightingale, relative to the Better Application of the Proceeds of Village Cesses to the purposes of Sanitation.” The official view, though not unsympathetic to Miss Nightingale's object, was opposed to her financial expedient; it was thought that other purposes, especially the improvement of roads, etc., had a claim prior to sanitation. “It seems clear,” wrote Sir William Wedderburn to her (July 7, 1893), “that you have most effectively drawn attention to the subject. The official replies are what we might naturally expect, but reading between the lines I think they admit the justice of our contention, and have been impressed by your action.” Perhaps this was to some extent the case. “You have most effectively drawn attention to the subject”; that was, perhaps, the main service which during these years Miss Nightingale rendered to the cause of Indian sanitation. Certainly she was importunate in asking successive Governors-General for reports of progress; her importunity often caused them to jog the elbows of Local Governments; and she may thus not unjustly be credited with such gradual progress as was made. The final reply to Miss Nightingale's immediate suggestion was sent in a dispatch to the Secretary of State (Mr. Fowler) from the Government of India in 1894 (March 28), enclosing letters on her Memorandum from the several Local Governments. The Government of India declined for various reasons to adopt her suggestion; but admitting that something ought to be done, considered that “sanitation in its simplest form of a pure water-supply and simple latrine arrangements should be regarded as[380] having to some extent a claim on Provincial revenues,” and it promised “to press this claim upon Local Governments and Administrations as opportunity offers.” A covering letter to Miss Nightingale from the Secretary of State (May 9, 1894), while informing her that Mr. Fowler “is disposed to accept the view taken by the Government of India,” expressed the belief “that India will benefit by the renewed attention which your action has caused to be given to the important subject of rural sanitary reform.” There are passages in some of the replies from Local Governments, enclosed in the dispatch, which bear out this belief.

Miss Nightingale, on her own part, was diligent in appeals to Indian gentlemen to bestir themselves. She had an ally at this time in Sir William Wilson Hunter, who, in his fortnightly summary of “Indian Affairs” in the Times, sometimes enforced her points or called attention to her writings. She had urged her friend to write a detailed description of the actual working of Indian administration, and this he did in 1892.[233] The Preface to his book was a dedicatory letter to Miss Nightingale. In it he says that the book was written at her request, describes its scope, and thus concludes: “Now that the work is done, to whom can I more fitly dedicate it than to you, dear Miss Nightingale—to you whose life has been a long devotion to the stricken ones of the earth—to you whose deep sympathy with the peoples of India no years of suffering or of sickness are able to abate?” In her own pieces written at this date, Miss Nightingale preached more especially the gospel of Health Missionaries for Rural India.[234] Some reference to progress made in this respect will be found in a later chapter (p. 406). She believed in State action, but no less in Self-help, and this point of view is emphasized in a retrospect of her work for India which she wrote, or partly wrote, probably as hints for some vernacular publication, in 1889.[235][381] Some passages from the document, here rearranged, may fitly close this account of her later Indian work.

“Miss Nightingale saw in the Queen's Proclamation of 1858 a text and a living principle to fulfil. Every Englishman and Englishwoman interested in India were bound in duty and in honour to do their utmost to help British subjects to understand the principle and to practise the life. To this she has adhered through illness and overwork for thirty-one years. First attracted to India by the vital necessity of health for 200 or 250 millions, imperilled by sanitary ignorance, apathy, or neglect, she believed it to be a fact that since the world began, criminals have not destroyed more life and property than do epidemic diseases (the result of well-known insanitary conditions) every year in India. The protection of life and property from preventable epidemics ranks next to protection from criminals, as a responsibility of Government, if indeed it is not even higher in importance. The first thing was to awaken the Government. This was done by the Royal Commission upon the Sanitary State of the Army in India, which was the origin of practical action for the vast native population. But the difficulties were enormous. You must have the people on your side. And the people, alas, did not care. You cannot give health to the people against their wills, as you can lock up people against their wills. Impressed by these facts, Miss Nightingale saw the necessity of Sanitary Missionaries among the people—of sanitary manuals and primers in the schools (‘Give me the—schools—of a country and I care not who makes its laws’); of sanitary publications of all kinds, for man, woman, and child. The Sanitary Commissioner, in one instance at least,[236] has been a Sanitary Missionary, crying out, ‘Bestir yourselves, gentlemen, don't you see we are all dying?’ The people must be awakened, not to call on the Goddess of Epidemics, but to call upon the Sirkar to do its part, and also to bestir themselves to do theirs in the matter of cleanliness and pure water. Miss Nightingale found in Local Government the only remedy; in Local Government combined with Education.” The Paper touches also upon Miss Nightingale's interest in irrigation, land-tenure,[382] usury, agriculture, and in all these matters connects State action with Self-help. “To the native gentlemen it is that Miss Nightingale appeals. She appeals to them also on the Sanitary point. And first of all it is for them to influence their ladies. Let them lead in their own families in domestic sanitation. Then, doubtless, the lady will lead in general sanitation in India as she does in England.” Another passage gives incidentally an autobiographical summary. “Miss Nightingale has deeply sympathized with the honourable efforts of the National Congress which has now held three Sessions, in which its temperate support of political reforms has been no less remarkable for wisdom than for loyalty. But her whole life has been given deliberately, not for political, but for social and administrative progress.”


At the time when Miss Nightingale's Indian work was thus largely concentrated upon village sanitation, she was no less busily employed, though in a different way, upon work of a like kind at home. Her interest in local affairs at Claydon has already been touched upon, and this was much increased after the death of her sister in 1890. Lady Verney had been a sufferer for many years, but had borne her illness with unflagging spirit. In May 1890 she was in London, very ill, and was counting the hours to her removal to Claydon, but she would not give up a Sunday in town—a day which Florence now kept sacred for her sister. On Sunday May 4 Lady Verney was carried into Florence's room, and the sisters did not see each other again. On Monday Lady Verney was moved to Claydon, and there, a week later, on Florence's birthday, she died. “You contributed more than anyone,” wrote Sir Harry (May 15), “to what enjoyment of life was hers. I have no comfort so great as to hold intercourse with you. You and I were the objects of her tender love, and her love for you was intense. It was delightful to me to hear her speak of you, and to see her face, perhaps distorted with pain, look happy when she thought of you.” Miss Nightingale at once went to Claydon,[383] where she remained for several months. Sir Harry, now in his 90th year, relied greatly upon his sister-in-law, and for the remainder of his life she devoted herself to him with constant solicitude. He was never happy if many days passed without sight of her or hearing from her. The butler always put Miss Nightingale's letter on the top of his master's morning pile, and no mouthful of breakfast was eaten till he had read it through. When he was in the country and she in London, he was always wanting to run up to town for the day—to buy a new waistcoat, or to consult his solicitor: any excuse would serve so that he could see his sister-in-law in South Street. They used to say at Claydon that there was a sure way of discovering whether Sir Harry found a new guest sympathetic or not: if he did, the conversation was invariably turned to Miss Nightingale. Upon the death of her sister, Claydon became Miss Nightingale's country-home, and she brought her managerial thoroughness into play there. She looked into Sir Harry's affairs, interested herself greatly in the estate, inquired into the conditions of surrounding village life, made acquaintance with local doctors. These interests brought home to her the conviction that village sanitation was necessary to civilize England hardly less than India, and she saw that as in India, so in England, education must be one at least of the civilizing agencies. She set herself to make a beginning where her lot now happened to be cast, in Buckinghamshire.

The time was favourable to a new experiment. County Councils had been established by the Act of 1888. In 1889 they were empowered to levy and expend money upon Technical Education. By the Local Taxation Act of 1890 they received a windfall for the same purpose from what was known as the “Whisky Money.” Funds were thus available, and the definition of “technical” education was wide. Why should not some of it be used for education in the science of “Health at Home”? Mr. Frederick Verney was chairman of the Technical Education Committee of North Bucks, and with Miss Nightingale, as he said, “to inspire, advise, and guide,” the thing was done. She was already, as we have heard, possessed by the idea of the district nurse as health missioner. It now occurred to her[384] to institute an order of health-missioners as such. The Health Officer for the district (Dr. De'Ath was first employed to train ladies for the work by means of lectures and classes. The instruction was practical as well as theoretical, for the doctor took his pupils with him to some of the villages, introduced the ladies to the village mothers, and pointed out particular matters in which knowledge sympathetically given might be invaluable to the cottagers. An independent examination followed, and the ladies who passed it satisfactorily were, after a period of probation in practical work, granted certificates as Health Missioners, in which capacity some of them were engaged by the Technical Education Committee to visit and lecture in the country villages. The scheme, started in the spring of 1892, was a simple one, but it involved Miss Nightingale, as huge bundles of documents attest, in much labour for two or three years. She enlisted recruits; collected the best that was known and thought about simple sanitary instruction; considered syllabuses and examination papers; corresponded with other Technical Education Committees; wrote memoranda and letters on the subject.[237] To the Women Workers' Conference, held at Leeds in November 1893, she sent a paper dealing exhaustively with the whole subject of Rural Hygiene—a paper which is unhappily by no means out of date to-day, though the work, in which Miss Nightingale was a pioneer, has branched out in many directions. “We want duly qualified Sanitary Inspectors,” she wrote, and she was delighted when she heard a few years later of the good work done by some women sanitary inspectors in the north. Full qualification, practical training, she insisted upon; and then something else was wanted also. Her last word to the Health Missioner was the same as to the Nurse. “The work that tells is the work of the skilful hand, directed by the cool head, and inspired by the loving heart.”




Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its close—then let every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others.—Ruskin.

The last chapter was largely concerned with Miss Nightingale's activity in public affairs and with acquaintanceships which she formed in connection with them. In such affairs she was forcible, clear-sighted, methodical. Sir Bartle Frere, on first making her acquaintance, had said to a friend that it was “a great pleasure to meet such a good man of business as Miss Nightingale.” But she was many-sided, and even in her converse with men or women on public affairs she was generally something more than a good “man of business.” Much of her influence was due to the fact that so many of those who first saw her as a matter of affairs became her friends, and that to the qualities of a good man of business she added those of a richly sympathetic nature.

This aspect of Miss Nightingale's life and character has already been illustrated sufficiently in the case of her relations with Matrons, Superintendents, and Nurses. It may be discerned clearly enough, too, in the account of her official work with Sidney Herbert and other of her earlier allies. But it was as marked in her later as in her earlier years, and in relation to the men as to the women with whom she was brought into touch. In reading her collection of letters from various doctors and officials of all sorts, I have been struck many times with a quick change of atmosphere.[386] The correspondence begins on a formal note. Her correspondent will be “pleased to make the acquaintance of a lady so justly esteemed,” etc., etc. The interview has taken place, or a few letters have passed, and then the note alters. Wives or sons or daughters have been to see her, or kindly inquiries and messages have been sent, and the correspondence becomes as between old family friends. Young and old alike felt the sympathetic touch of Miss Nightingale's manner. The name of Mr. J. J. Frederick has been mentioned in earlier pages. He was a junior clerk in the War Office when Miss Nightingale first made his acquaintance. Not many months had passed before she was helpfully interested both in his family and in various good works to which he devoted his spare time. There is much correspondence, during the years with which we were concerned in the last chapter, with Mr. (now Sir Robert) Morant, at that time tutor in the Royal Family of Siam. Miss Nightingale had made his acquaintance before he left for Siam; and he came to see her when he was on leave in England, “leave apparently meaning,” she wrote (Sept. 24, 1891), “working on his Siamese subjects 23 hours out of the 24.” She became almost as much interested in Siamese affairs as in those of India itself; but the letters show that the public interest was combined with a personal, and almost motherly, affection. Mr. J. Croft, on the staff at St. Thomas's, who had for many years been medical instructor to the Nightingale Probationers, resigned that post in 1892, and in returning thanks for a testimonial described the pleasure he had found in working under “so lovable and adorable a leader as Miss Nightingale.” Colonel Yule had first made Miss Nightingale's acquaintance in an official capacity as the member of the India Council charged with sanitary affairs, but he soon came to love her as a friend. In 1889 he was ill, and wrote her a valedictory letter (May 2), in which, after giving advice about some official matters, he said: “As long as I live, but I am not counting on that as a long period, it will be a happiness to think that I was brought into communication with you—useless as I fear I have been in your great task: in fact my strength had already begun to fail. And so, dear Miss[387] Nightingale, I take my leave: let it be with the words of the 4th Book of Moses, ch. vi., and those that come after us will put in your mouth those of Job, xxix.”[238] His strength failed more rapidly; and in his last illness he craved to know that Miss Nightingale had not forgotten him. She sent him a message of fervent gratitude. “I will look at it not as misapplied to myself,” he answered (Dec. 17, a few days before his death), “but as part of the large and generous nature which you are ready to apply to others who little deserve it. I praise God for the privilege of having known you. I am sunk very low in strength, and cannot write with my own hand, so use that of one of my oldest and dearest friends. God bless and keep you to the end, as you have been for so many years, a pillar in Christ's Kingdom of Love and of this state of England. Ever, with the deepest affection and veneration, your faithful servant, H. Yule.” The strength of her older friend and fellow-worker, Dr. Sutherland, ebbed rapidly, and he did not long survive his retirement. He died in July 1891. He was in great weakness at the end, and was hardly able to read or to speak; but his wife said that she had received a letter from Miss Nightingale with messages for him. To her surprise he roused himself once more, read the letter through, and said, “Give her my love and blessing.” They were almost his last words.


The affectionate sympathy which Miss Nightingale gave to her friends was not lacking to her relations. In 1889 one of the dearest of them, her “Aunt Mai,” had died at the age of 91. Her husband, the “Uncle Sam” of earlier chapters, had died eight years before; and the widow's bereavement seems to have done away with such estrangement as there had been between her and her niece. They resumed their former affectionate correspondence on religious matters, and Miss Nightingale was again the “loving Flo” of earlier years. “Dearest friend,” she wrote on the card sent with[388] flowers when her aunt died; “lovely, loving soul; humble mind of high and holy thought.”

Miss Nightingale was not one of those persons who keep their tact and kindly consideration for the outside world and think indolent indifference or rough candour good enough for the family circle. I have been told a little anecdote which is instructive in this connection. Miss Irby came into the garden hall at Lea Hurst one day, fresh from an interview with Miss Nightingale. “I must tell you,” she said, laughing, to one of Miss Nightingale's younger cousins, “what Florence has just said; it's so like her. She said to me, ‘I wonder whether R. remembered to have that branch taken away that fell across the south drive.’ I said, ‘I will ask her.’ ‘Oh, no,’ said Florence, ‘don't ask her that. Ask her whom she asked to take the branch away.’” This is only a trifle; but the method of the thing was very characteristic. Miss Nightingale was a diplomatist in small affairs as in great. She was careful not to run a risk of making mischief through intermediaries. She took real trouble to that end, and never seemed to find anything in this sort too much to do. Her influence with every member of her family was used to make relations between them better and more affectionate. With many of the younger generation of her cousins and other kinsfolk she maintained affectionate relations. She regulated her hours very strictly, as we have heard, but she found time, especially in her later years, to see some of these young friends repeatedly. When she did not see them, she liked to be informed of their comings and goings, their doings and prospects, their marriages and belongings. She held in deep affection the memory of Arthur Hugh Clough, and she loved tenderly her cousin, Mr. Shore Smith. She entertained a generous solicitude for Mr. Clough's family; and the family of her cousin, Shore, were especially close to her. A little note to Mrs. Shore Smith—one of hundreds—illustrates incidentally Miss Nightingale's love of flowers and their insect friends:—

10 South Street, April 24, 1894. Dearest, I feel so anxious to know how you are. Thank you so much for your beautiful Azaleas which have come out splendidly, and the yellow tulips.[389] The smell of the Azaleas reminds me so of Embley. On a tulip sat a poor little tiny, tiny, pretty little snail of a sort unknown to me. He said: “I was so happy in my garden on my tulip, and I was kidnapped into that horrid box. And whatever am I to do?” So we carried him out and carefully put him among the shrubs in the boxes on the leads (lilacs). But my opinion is that he is very particular about his diet and that his opinion was that he could find nothing worthy of his acceptance there. He must either have been drowned in the water-spout, or dree'd the penalty of being particular. Now I return to our brutality in letting you go without even partaking of “Baby's bottle.” My kindest regards to Baby and its Mama. Ever your loving F. N.

Miss Nightingale was godmother to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Bonham Carter's son, Malcolm. With Norman, an Indian Civilian, a younger son of Mr. Henry Bonham Carter, she kept up a correspondence. She was much attached to Miss Edith Bonham Carter,[239] who had taken up nursing, and there were several other relations who saw her and in whom she was much interested. The number of family letters which she preserved is very large; and among them those relating to the family into which her sister had married are almost as numerous as those relating to her own kith and kin. For Margaret Lady Verney, in particular, Miss Nightingale entertained a deep admiration and a most tender affection. She was attached also to Sir Harry's younger son, Mr. Frederick Verney, who in these later years helped her in many of her undertakings, and whom she in turn helped greatly in his. A few of her own family letters, covering a large space of time, will best show the pleasantly affectionate terms, now grave, now gay, on which she placed herself with her relations:—

(To Mrs. Clough.) 35 South Street, Jan. 2 [1873]. I lit upon the edition of Byron (without Don Juan) which we wished for. There are two vols. more than in our edition, which may be trash. But Childe Harold,—the descriptions of Greece in the Tale: Poems,—Chillon,—but above all Manfred: there is nothing like it in the world, especially the last scene. The Spirit there is really a spirit—the only spirit out of Job and Saul. The[390] Ghost in Hamlet is surely a very gross unpleasant dead-alive unburied man, with the most vulgar full-bodied sentiments, clamouring for vengeance on his murderer (not even so spirit-like as a dying man), quite unlike what his son describes him—a Thief and Impostor, I am sure, going to take the spoons. Manfred, to my mind, stands alone, and is the most spiritual view of immortality, of what hell and heaven really are, of any poetry in the world. One only wonders how Byron ever wrote it.

(To a niece,[240] who was going to College.) 10 South Street, August 22 [1881]. My very dearest R.—Aunt Florence is filled with you and your going to Girton. I can say nothing I would and, saying nothing, I would ask those greatest of the “heathens”—Plato, Aeschylus, Thucydides—to say much to you. Aeschylus, whose Prometheus is evidently a foreshadowing of, or, if you like it better, the same type (with Osiris of Egypt) as, Christ: the one who brought “gifts to men,” who defied “the powers that be” (the “principalities” and “powers” of evil), who suffered for men in bringing them the “best gifts” (the “fire from heaven”), who could only give by suffering himself, and who finally “led captivity captive.” It seems to me that I see in nothing so much the history of God—in the religions of the world which M. Mohl learnt Oriental languages to write—as in these great “heathens”—Persian, Chinese, Indian, Greek also, and Latin too, but specially Aeschylus and Plato; and perhaps, too, in Physiology—the greatness of His work, the silence of His work, what spirit He is of. His “glory” and poorness of spirit—and that to be “poor of spirit” constitutes His glory, if to be poor of spirit means utter unselfishness, perfect freedom from self and from the very thought of self, and from affectations and from “vain glory.” My very dearest child, fare you very well—very, very well is the deepest prayer of Aunt Florence.

(To a niece who had taken up vegetarianism.) 10 South Street, Nov. 8 [1887]. Dearest—I send you two “vegetables” in their shells. We shall have some more fresh ones to-morrow. A new potato is, I assure you, not a vegetable. It is a mare's egg, laid by her, you know, in a “mare's nest.” No vegetarian would eat it. I send you some Egyptian lentils. I have them every night for supper, done in milk, which I am not very fond of. The delicious thing is lentil soup, as made every day by an Arab cook in Egypt, over a handful of fire not big enough to roast a mosquito.… Ever your loving Aunt Florence.

(To a niece, who was full of the co-operative movement.) 10[391] South Street, July 14 [1888]. Dearest—Your co-operative usefulness is delightful. If it is not in the lowest degree vulgar, I should ask if I might give them some books. But I suppose this is contrary to all Co-operative principle. Lady Ashburton is gone to Marienbad, to distribute Bibles and Tracts in Czech-ish. There is a very large Co-operative Estate about 20 miles distant on the borders of the Forest, which she has seen and believes to be entirely successful. And I have charged her to send me home (for you) details—and of course to prove its success. You see how my manners and principles have been corrupted by you, the youthful prophet. If you observe aberration, do not lay it at my door. It is sad how youth corrupts old age. Your faithful and loving old (co-operative) Aunt, Florence Nightingale.

(To Mrs. Vaughan Nash.) Claydon House, Jan. 3 [1895]. I have never thanked you, except in my heart, which is always, for my beautiful book—Villari's History of Florence: its first two centuries. It does look so interesting, and I have always been interested in Florentine history above all others. I think it was from studying Sismondi's Républiques Italiennes when I was a young girl (book now despised—you rascal!) and from knowing Sismondi himself afterwards at Geneva. The end of this Villari does look so very enthralling, where he traces the causes of the decline and fall of the Florentine Republic—its very wealth and commerce assisting its ruin, and shows how its “Commune” could not develop into a “State” (that may help some reflections on Indian Village Communities). But I do not see that he shows—tho' as I am reading backwards, like the Devil, I may come to it—how different were the Florentine ideas of Liberty from ours. With them it was that everybody should have a share in governing everybody else; with us, that everybody should have the power of self-development without hurting anybody else. I remember Villari's Savonarola well: it must have been published 30 or 40 years ago. (I always had an enthusiasm for Savonarola.) It was heavy, learned, impartial, exhaustive. It was my father's book: he read it much. I think I told you that I possess copies of the last things that Savonarola ever wrote—Commentaries on two Psalms—not a word against his enemies and persecutions, or any mention of them, or indeed any lamentation at all, but all one long and fervent aspiration after a perfect re-union with the Father of light and love. Good Fenzi, Evelina Galton's husband, had these copies made for me from the originals in the Palazzo Vecchio.

(To Norman Bonham Carter.) 10 South Street, August 2 [1895].… You will see by the accounts of the General Election[392] how the Conservatives have got in by an enormous majority, and the Liberals are discomfited. But I am an old fogey, and have been at this work for 40 years. And I have always found that the man who has the genius to know how to find details, and the still greater genius of knowing how to apply them will win, and party does not signify at all. My masters[241]—that is, Sir Robert Peel's school, never cared for place, but always worked for both sides alike. I learn the lesson of life from a little kitten of mine, one of two. The old cat comes in and says, very cross, “I didn't ask you in here, I like to have my Missis to myself!” And he runs at them. The bigger and handsomer kitten runs away, but the littler one stands her ground, and when the old enemy comes near enough kisses his nose, and makes the peace. That is the lesson of life, to kiss one's enemy's nose, always standing one's ground. I am rather sorry for Lord Salisbury. A majority is always in the wrong.

(To Louis Shore Nightingale.[242]) 10 South Street, Dec. 21 [1896]. I have been thinking a great deal of what you said on both sides about a Church at Lea. I wish you could consult some one, not Church-y, like Harry B. C., upon it. What you say that, if the Church is to be done, the proprietors and trustees of Lea Hurst should not set themselves against it is true. The Church is like the Wesleyans, another Christian sect—not to be put down. On the other hand, the Church is now more like the Scribes and Pharisees than like Christ. The Bishops and the High Church look upon work among Dissenters as work among the heathen. They would upset all the present work in Lea and Holloway if they could. Christ would have laughed at the “Validity of Orders” difficulty of the present day. He would have no dogma. His Dogmas were, He tells us distinctly, Unselfishness, Love to God and our neighbour. He takes the Ten Commandments to pieces and sho