The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 34

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Sutherland reorganized the War Office from top to bottom. Sir Benjamin might have smiled rather grimly, and then set himself with the greater determination to keep things as they were, had he seen how near the bottom was the place into which Miss Nightingale proposed to reorganize _him_. She was quite frank about it. "The scheme will probably result in Hawes's resignation," she wrote; "that is another of its advantages." To reorganize the War Office on paper is an occupation which, during fifty following years, was to beguile the leisure of amateurs, and to fill with disappointed hopes the laborious days of many a Minister. To carry out any such scheme into practice is a task which only a Minister, in full fighting force, could hope to accomplish. It was beyond the power of a dying man.

[292] _Army Reform under Lord Herbert_, pp. 4-5.

[293] Better known as the Marquis of Ripon, to which rank he was promoted in 1871.

Miss Nightingale had her fears from the first. "Our scheme of reorganization," she wrote to Sir John McNeill (Jan. 17, 1861), "is at last launched at the War Office; but I feel that Hawes may make it fail: there is no strong hand over him." Lord Herbert struggled on manfully with his many tasks (including, it should be remembered, constant dispute with Mr. Gladstone over the Army Estimates), but his strength grew constantly less. At last he had to confess that, on the matter which Miss Nightingale had urged him to carry through, he was beaten:--

(_Lord Herbert to Miss Nightingale._) _June_ 7 [1861].... As to the organization I am at my wits' end. The real truth is that I do not understand it. I have not the b.u.mp of system in me. I believe more in good men than in good systems. De Grey understands it much better.... [He then describes certain minor reforms in personnel, including a definite sphere of responsibility for Captain Galton.]

This I should like to do before I go. And now comes the question, when is that to be and what had I best do and what leave to be done by others. I feel that I am not now doing justice to the War Office or myself. On days when the morning is spent on a sofa drinking gulps of brandy till I am fit to crawl down to the Office, I am not very energetic when I get there. I have still two or three matters which I should like to settle and finish, but I am by no means clear that the organization of the Office is one of them....

[Further official details.] I cannot end even this long letter without a word on a subject of which my mind is full and yours will be too--Cavour. What a life! what a life! and what a death! I know of no fifty lives which could be put in compet.i.tion with his. It casts a shade over all Europe. While he lived, one felt so confident for Italy, that he could hold his own against Austria, against the _wild_ Italians, against the Pope, and above all against L. Napoleon. But what a glorious career! and what a work done in one life! I don't know where to look for anything to compare with it.

Cavour had died the day before, and his last recorded words were of his Cause: _la cosa va_. The pathos with which the events of the next few weeks were to invest this letter from Sidney Herbert made a deep impression upon Miss Nightingale. Among some pencilled jottings of hers, written thirty or forty years after, she recalled phrases in the letter and in conversations of the same date. But, at the immediate moment, Lord Herbert's confession of failure filled her with despairing vexation. Sir John McNeill, to whom she poured out her soul, took the truer view of the case. It was sad, he admitted (June 18), that Lord Herbert should have been "beaten on his own chosen ground by Ben Hawes.

But," he added, "the truth, I suspect, is that he has been beaten by disease, and not by Ben." "What strikes me in this great defeat," she replied (June 21), "more painfully even than the loss to the Army is the triumph of the bureaucracy over the leaders--the political aristocracy who at least advocate higher principles. A Sidney Herbert beaten by a Ben Hawes is a greater humiliation really (as a matter of principle) than the disaster of Scutari."

Disease held Lord Herbert in its grasp, but with indomitable spirit he worked on at matters, other than reorganization, in which he and Miss Nightingale were specially interested. One of these matters was the establishment of a General Military Hospital at Woolwich. "Among the few practical things," wrote Miss Nightingale to Sir John McNeill (June 21), "which I hope to succeed in saving from the general wreck of the War Office is the organization of one General Hospital on your plan. Colonel Wilbraham has consented to be Governor. Last week we made a list of the staff, and the names were approved by Lord Herbert. There has been an immense uproar, perhaps no more than you antic.i.p.ated, from the Army Medical Department and the Horse Guards." Lord Herbert was to send her the draft of the Governor's Commission, and she asked Sir John McNeill's a.s.sistance in revising it. Then she was requested to name a Superintendent of nurses. Her choice fell upon one of her Crimean colleagues, Mrs. Shaw Stewart, an admirable, though a somewhat "difficult" lady, who had now quarrelled with Miss Nightingale, but whose efficiency marked her out for the post. Two other of Lord Herbert's last official acts referred also to the health of the British soldier, and each was suggested by Miss Nightingale. One was the appointment of the Barracks Works Committee (June 6) already mentioned (p. 389); the other, the appointment of Captain Galton and Dr.

Sutherland as Commissioners, with Mr. J. J. Frederick as Secretary, to improve the Barracks and Hospitals on the Mediterranean Station.

By the end of June, Lord Herbert's health had become worse, and he was ordered abroad to Spa. On July 9 he called at the Burlington Hotel to say good-bye to Miss Nightingale. They never met again. A week later, he wrote to her from Spa:--

I enclose a letter from Mrs. Shaw Stewart. To cut matters short and start the thing, I have begged her to select the nurses on their own terms. I mean as to qualifications, as the Regulations define salary, etc. So I hope we shall at any rate start the thing now. I have written an undated letter of resignation to Palmerston to be used whenever convenient to him. I have not written it without a pang, but I believe it to be the right and best course. I believe Lewis, with de Grey for under-secretary, is to be my successor. I can fancy no fish more out of water than Lewis amidst Armstrong guns and General Officers, but he is a gentleman, an honest man, and de Grey will be invaluable for the office and for many of the especial interests to which I specially looked. I have a letter from Codrington proposing another site for the new branch Inst.i.tute. I have sent it to Galton. I wish I had any confidence that you are as much better as I am.

Lord Herbert's buoyancy of spirit remained to him when physical strength was quickly ebbing. He became worse, and, on July 25, left Spa for home.

He died at Wilton on August 2. "To the last," wrote his sister to Miss Nightingale, "he had the same charm, that dear winning smile, that almost playful, pretty way of saying everything." But among his last articulate words were these: "Poor Florence! Poor Florence! Our joint work unfinished."

II

The death of Sidney Herbert was a heavy blow to Miss Nightingale--the heaviest, perhaps, which she ever had to suffer. It meant not only the loss of an old friend and companion, in whose society she had constantly lived and moved for five years. It meant also the interruption of their joint work, which was more to her than life itself. She felt in the severance of their alliance the true bitterness of death:--

(_Miss Nightingale to her Father._) HAMPSTEAD, _Aug._ 21 [1861].

DEAR PAPA--Indeed your sympathy is very dear to me. So few people know in the least what I have lost in my dear master. Indeed I know no one but myself who had it to lose. For no two people pursue together the same object, as I did with him. And when they lose their companion by death, they have in fact lost no companions.h.i.+p.

Now he takes my life with him. My work, the object of my life, the means to do it, all in one, depart with him. "Grief fills the room up of my absent" master. I cannot say it "walks up and down" with me. For I don't walk up and down. But it "eats" and sleeps and wakes with me. Yet I can truly say that I see it is better that G.o.d should not work a miracle to save Sidney Herbert, altho' his death involves the misfortune, moral and physical, of five hundred thousand men, and altho' it would have been but to set aside a few trifling physical laws to save him.... "The righteous perisheth and no man layeth it to heart." The Scripture goes on to say "none considering that he is taken away from the evil to come." _I_ say "none considering that he is taken away from the good he might have done." Now not one man remains (that I can call a man) of all those whom I began work with, five years ago. And I alone, of all men "most deject and wretched," survive them all. I am sure I meant to have died.... Ever, dear Papa, your loving child, F.

Her grief was accompanied and intensified by some remorse:--

(_Miss Nightingale to Harriet Martineau._) HAMPSTEAD, _Sept._ 24 [1861].... And I, too, was hard upon him. I told him that Cavour's death was a blow to European liberty, but that a greater blow was that Sidney Herbert should be beaten on his own ground by a bureaucracy. I told him that no man in my day had thrown away so n.o.ble a game with all the winning cards in his hands. And his angelic temper with me, at the same time that he felt what I said was true, I shall never forget. I wish people to know that what was done was done by a man struggling with death--to know that he thought so much more of what he had not done than of what he had done--to know that all his latter suffering years were filled not by a selfish desire for his own salvation--far less for his own ambition (he hated office, his was the purest ambition I have ever known), but by the struggle of exertion for our benefit.

Happily for her peace of mind there came to her an almost immediate call to be up and doing in the service of her "dear master," as in her letters of this time she constantly named Sidney Herbert.

The newspapers had at first been somewhat grudging in their obituary notices of him. He had been thought of in connection more with the defects of the War Office during the early months of the Crimean War, than with his services as a reformer. His family and his friends were pained, and on their behalf Mr. Gladstone applied to Miss Nightingale.

She did not feel well enough to see him, and, on August 6, he wrote explaining the case, "taking the liberty of intruding upon her for aid and counsel," and asking "the a.s.sistance of her superior knowledge and judgment in a matter which so much interests our feelings." Miss Nightingale instantly set to work and wrote a Memorandum on Sidney Herbert's work as an Army Reformer. She wrote quickly, but with her usual care in giving chapter and verse for every statement. The Memorandum was anonymous, and was marked "Private and Confidential"; but she had it printed, and circulated it among Lord Herbert's friends and various publicists. Among those who saw it was Abraham Hayward who, when a memorial to Lord Herbert was being mooted a few weeks later, strongly urged that she should be asked to publish the Paper. "No one," he wrote, "could or would misconstrue her motives. Nothing has been more remarkable in her beneficent and self-sacrificing career than its un.o.btrusiveness. It has only become famous because its results were too great and good to be shrouded in silence and retirement. Admirably as she writes, she is obviously never thinking about her style; which, for that very reason, is most impressive; and I feel quite sure that the Paper in question would suggest no thought or feeling beyond conviction and sympathy."[294]

[294] Letter (Nov. 20) to Count Strzelechi, for whom see below, p. 410.

The Memorandum, in so far as it relates to what Sidney Herbert did, has been described and quoted above; but at the end of it, Miss Nightingale was careful to touch upon what he had meant to do and what remained for others to do. "He died before his work was done." The work on which his heart was set was the preservation of the health, physical and moral, of the British soldiers. "This is the work of his which ought to bear fruit in all future time, and which his death has committed to the guardians.h.i.+p of his country."

Having finished her Memorandum, Miss Nightingale sent it to Mr.

Gladstone. She knew how warm had been the friends.h.i.+p between him and Sidney Herbert. She thought that in the friend who remained the saying might perchance come true: _uno avulso non deficit alter_. At any rate it was her duty to throw out the hint. So she underlined, as it were, the closing words of her Paper by offering to talk with Mr. Gladstone about the unfinished work which, as she knew, was nearest to Sidney Herbert's heart. To this overture, Mr. Gladstone replied in a letter, giving account of his friend's funeral:

(_W. E. Gladstone to Florence Nightingale._) 11 CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE, _Aug._ 10 [1861]. The funeral was very sad but very soothing. Simplicity itself in point of form, it was most remarkable from the number of people gathered together, and especially from their demeanour. Many _men_ were weeping: not one unconcerned face among several thousands could be seen. But it all brings home more and more the immense void that he has left for all who loved, that is for all who knew, him.... I read last night with profound interest your important paper. I see at once that the matter is too high for me to handle. Like you I know that too much would distress him, too little would not. I am in truth ignorant of military administration: and my impressions are distant and vague.

It is your knowledge and authority more than that of any living creature that can do him justice, at the proper time, whenever that may be--do him justice, as he would like it, without exaggeration, without defrauding others. I shall return the paper to you: but of it I venture to keep a copy....

With respect to your making known to me the "three subjects" I will beg you to exercise your own discretion after simply saying this much; my duty is to watch and control on the part of the Treasury rather than to promote officially departmental reforms. To him I could personally suggest: I am not sure that I should be justified in taking the same liberty with Sir G. Lewis, especially new to his work. On the other hand, my desire to promote Herbert's wishes, as his wishes, was not stronger than my confidence in his judgment as an administrator. (If I now seem reluctant to touch that subject it is for fear I should spoil it.) In the conduct of a department he seemed to me very nearly if not quite the first of his generation.--I remain, dear Miss Nightingale, Very sincerely yours, W. E. GLADSTONE.

On the afternoon of November 28, in Willis's Rooms--in the same place where, in the same month six years before, Mr. Herbert had spoken in support of a memorial to Miss Nightingale's honour, a public meeting was held to promote a memorial to him. "I think you would have been satisfied," wrote Mr. Gladstone to her on the same evening, "even if a fastidious judge, with the tone and feeling of the meeting to-day. I mean as regards Herbert. As respects yourself, you might have cared little, but could not have been otherwise than pleased. I made no allusion to you in connection with the paper you kindly sent me, although I made some use of the materials. I acted thus after conference with Count Strzelechi,[295] and with his approval. I thought that if I mentioned you along with that paper, I should seem guilty of the a.s.sumption to const.i.tute myself your organ." Miss Nightingale's Paper, summarizing Lord Herbert's services to the health and comfort of the British Army, formed, indeed, the staple of more than one of the speeches,[296] and the long alliance between them in that cause, which has been the subject of preceding chapters in this Memoir, was frequently referred to at the meeting. General Sir John Burgoyne said breezily that Lord Herbert's "hobby was to promote the health and comfort of the soldier, and his pet was Miss Nightingale, who had for many years devoted herself to the same pursuit." Mr. Gladstone mentioned as Lord Herbert's "fellow-labourer" the "name of Miss Nightingale, a name that had become a talisman to all her fellow-countrymen." And Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister, in a.s.sociating the Commander-in-Chief with the late Minister for War, added that "they did not labour alone.

They were not the only two; there was a third engaged in those honourable exertions, and Miss Nightingale, though a volunteer in the service, acted with all the zeal of a volunteer, and was greatly a.s.sistant, as I am sure your Royal Highness will bear witness, to the labours of your Royal Highness and Lord Herbert."

[295] Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelechi, K.C.M.G., C.B., known as Count Strzelechi, Australian explorer, of Polish descent, though a naturalized Englishman, was a great friend of Lord and Lady Herbert, whom he had accompanied on their last journey abroad.

He took a prominent part in organizing the Herbert Memorial.

[296] They are collected in a pamphlet (August 1867) ent.i.tled _Memorial to the Late Lord Herbert_.

III

The alliance which was dissolved by Lord Herbert's death is probably unique in the history of politics and of friends.h.i.+p. "As for his friends.h.i.+p and mine," said Miss Nightingale, "I doubt whether the same could ever occur again."[297] For five years the politician in the public eye, and this woman behind the scenes, were in active co-operation; often seeing each other daily, at all times in uninterrupted communication. There have been other instances in which the same thing has happened, but happened with many differences. There have been statesmen who have made confidantes of their wives, and who have found in them wise counsellors and helpful supporters. Sidney Herbert himself received much help in his public work from his wife, to whom he was devotedly attached. In some pencilled jottings about her friends, Miss Nightingale records a beautiful trait; Sidney Herbert made it a rule, she says, to mark each anniversary of his wedding-day by beginning some new work of kindness towards others. Yet there was room in the ordering of his life, during the five years following the Crimean War, for taking constant counsel from another woman--so constant as, perhaps, in the days of his illness and over-work to cause his wife some anxiety. Yet Miss Nightingale was as dear to the wife as she was helpful to the husband, and affectionate friends.h.i.+p between her and Mrs. Herbert was not impaired. There have been many statesmen, again, and many other eminent men, who have found inspiration or support, no less than solace or pleasure, in the friends.h.i.+p of women. But Sidney Herbert's attraction to Miss Nightingale, and hers to him, were on a plane by themselves.

She, indeed, was susceptible, as was every man and every woman who knew him, to Sidney Herbert's singular charm and courtesy; she admired the brilliance of his conversation; she felt pleasure in his presence. And he, with his quick perception, must have enjoyed the ready humour which played around Miss Nightingale's wisdom. But they were also comrades or colleagues even as men are. "A woman once told me," Miss Nightingale said to an old friend, "that my character would be more sympathized with by men than by women. In one sense I don't choose to have that said.

Sidney Herbert and I were together exactly like two men--exactly like him and Gladstone."[298]

[297] Letter to Harriet Martineau, September 24, 1861.

[298] Letter to Madame Mohl, Dec. 13, 1861.

The secret of this rare friends.h.i.+p between Sidney Herbert and Miss Nightingale is to be found, first, in the fact that the character and gifts of the one were precisely complementary to those of the other.

Though of a sanguine temperament, Sidney Herbert had the politician's caution. Miss Nightingale, though of an eminently practical genius, was eager and full of impelling force. She supplied inspiration which he had the means of translating into political action. Sidney Herbert had the political mind; Miss Nightingale, the administrative. Not indeed that he was deficient in some of the administrative gifts, or she in political instinct. But what was peculiarly characteristic of her was the combination of a firm grasp of general principles with a complete command of detail; and in the particular work in which they were engaged, her experience supplied what he lacked. "I supplied the detail," she said herself; "the knowledge of the actual working of an army, in which official men are so deficient; he supplied the political weight."[299] Each was thus indispensable to the other. And they were united by perfect sympathy in the service of high ideals. "He," wrote Miss Nightingale of Sidney Herbert, "with every possession which G.o.d could bestow to make him idly enjoy life, yet ran like a race-horse his n.o.ble course, till he fell--and up to the very day fortnight of his death struggled on doing good, not for the love of power or place (he did not care for it), but for the love of mankind and of G.o.d."[300] He was, "in the best sense," she wrote elsewhere, "a saver of men."[301] In that honourable record Miss Nightingale deserves an equal place with her friend.

[299] Letter to Harriet Martineau, Sept. 24, 1861.

[300] _Dublin_ (Bibliography A., No. 28), p. 8.

[301] _Herbert_ (Bibliography A., No. 29), p. 3.

PART IV

HOSPITALS AND NURSING

(1858-1861)

The everyday management of a large ward, let alone of a hospital, the knowing what are the laws of life and death for men, and what the laws of health for wards (and wards are healthy or unhealthy mainly according to the knowledge or ignorance of the nurse), are not these matters of sufficient importance and difficulty to require learning by experience and careful inquiry, just as much as any other art?--FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: _Notes on Nursing_.

CHAPTER I

The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 34

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