The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 40

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How, if at all, it may be asked, did she adjust her innermost beliefs to the current creeds of the day? I shall not attempt to define what she did not define; but a few remarks may be made. Was she Unitarian or Trinitarian? I think that we may answer as we will. She was "very sure of G.o.d," but very chary, as we have seen, of attempting to define His essence. Sometimes she seemed to think of G.o.d in a Unitarian sense; but there is a pa.s.sage in the _Suggestions_ in which she philosophizes the Trinity. "The Perfect exists in three relations to other existence: (1) As the Creator of all other existence, of its purpose, and of the means of fulfilling its purpose. This is the Father. (2) As partaken in these other modes of existence. This is the Son. (3) As manifested to these other modes of existence. This is the Holy Ghost." Then, again, was she "Protestant" or "Catholic"? She used language at different times which might be interpreted in either direction; but she used it at all times with some inner meaning of her own. Here is a letter which philosophizes an "evangelical" doctrine:--

(_Miss Nightingale to her Father._) HAMPSTEAD, _Sept._ 26 [1863].

DEAR PAPA--I am sure that if any one finds nourishment in Renan or in any book I should be very sorry to "depreciate" it. There is not so much solid food in books nowadays, especially in religious books, that we can afford to do so. I always think of Mad. Mohl's, "I don't want any book-writer to chew my food for me." Now nearly all books are chewed food--especially religious books.... What I dislike in Renan is not that it is fine writing, but that it is _all_ fine writing. His Christ is the hero of a novel; he himself, a successful novel-writer. I am revolted by such expressions as _charmant_, _delicieux_, _religion du pur sentiment_, in such a subject.... As for the "religion of sentiment," I really don't know what he means. It is an expression of Balzac's. If he means the "religion of love," I agree and do not agree. We _must love_ something _loveable_. And a religion of love must certainly include the explaining of G.o.d's character to be something loveable--of G.o.d's "providence," which is the self-same thing as G.o.d's Laws, as something loving and loveable. On the other hand I go along with Christ, not with Renan's Christ, far more than most Christians do.

I do think that "Christ on the Cross" is the highest expression hitherto of G.o.d--not in the vulgar meaning of the Atonement--but _G.o.d_ does hang on the Cross _every day_ in _every one_ of us; the whole meaning of G.o.d's "providence," _i.e._ His laws, is the Cross.

When Christ preaches the Cross, when all mystical theology preaches the Cross, I go along with them entirely. It is the self-same thing as what I mean when I say that G.o.d educates the world by His laws, _i.e._ _by sin_--that man must create mankind--that all this _evil_, _i.e._ the Cross, is the proof of G.o.d's goodness, is the _only_ way by which G.o.d could work out man's salvation without a contradiction. You say, but there is too much evil. I say, there is just enough (not a millionth part of a grain more than is _necessary_) to teach man by his own mistakes,--by his _sins_, if you will--to show man the way to _perfection in eternity_--to perfection which is the only happiness....

There were many points, on the other hand, at which Roman Catholicism strongly appealed to her. So marked is this att.i.tude in the _Suggestions_--in pa.s.sages sometimes ironical, sometimes serious--that at one of the latter places Mr. Jowett's note in the margin is: "The enemy will say, This book is written by an Infidel who has been a Papist. But _I_ wish that there were more of these sort of reflections showing the true relation of superst.i.tious ideas to moral and spiritual religion." I can well believe that her friend Cardinal Manning, for whom she entertained a high respect (though she waged a battle-royal against him on occasion[360]), may sometimes have regarded her as a likely convert; but towards acceptance of Roman doctrines, I find no ground for thinking that she was at any time inclined. Yet the spirit of Catholic saintliness--and especially that of the saints whose contemplative piety was joined to active benevolence--appealed strongly to her. She read books of Catholic devotion constantly, and made innumerable annotations in them and from them. She was greatly attracted by the writings of the Port Royalists, on which subject there is a long correspondence with her father. She admired intensely the aid which Catholic piety had given, and was to many of her own friends giving--to the Bermondsey Nuns, especially, and to the Mother and Sisters of the Trinita de'

Monti--towards purity of heart and the doing of everything from a right motive. Then, again, to be "business-like" was with Miss Nightingale almost the highest commendation; and in this character also the Roman Church appealed to her. Its acceptance of doctrines in all their logical conclusions seemed to her business-like; its organization was business-like; its recognition of women-workers was business-like.

[360] In 1867 he proposed to close the hospital which her friends the Nuns of Bermondsey had opened in Great Ormond Street. They of course "went to Miss Nightingale." She persuaded Lady Herbert to intercede for the nuns, but Manning would not yield further than to refer the case to Rome. Miss Nightingale then organized a party at Rome on the side of the nuns. There is an extensive correspondence amongst her papers on this subject. She defeated Manning in this matter.

So, then, Miss Nightingale was broad-minded in her att.i.tude towards creeds and churches. For her own part she believed that religious truth was positive, and could be discovered; but in her outlook upon the beliefs of others, she judged them by their fruits. She asked not so much what was a man's or a woman's religious formula, but whether it renewed a right spirit within them. With religiosity, if it was centred on self, she had no sympathy. "Is there anything higher," she asked, "in thinking of one's own salvation than in thinking of one's own dinner? I have always felt that the soldier who gives his life for something which is certainly not himself or his s.h.i.+lling a day--whether he call it his Queen or his Country or his Colours--is higher in the scale than the Saints or the Faquirs or the Evangelicals who (some of them don't) believe that the end of religion is to secure one's own salvation."

Within the limits indicated by these remarks, she would have agreed a good deal with what Mrs. Carlyle said to John Sterling: "I confess that I care almost nothing about _what_ a man believes in comparison with _how_ he believes. If his belief be correct, it is much the better for himself; but its intensity, its efficacy, is the ground on which I love and trust him."[361]

[361] _Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle_, 1883, vol. i.

p. 19.


There is a school of philosophy, much current in our day, which carries this point of view further. The meaning of a conception, it tells us, expresses itself in practical consequences, if the conception be true; religious truth is relative to the individual; the way to test a religion is to live it. If the philosophy of the pragmatists be right, then few forms of religious creed can claim better witness to their truth than that wherein Florence Nightingale lived and moved and had her being. She had "remodelled her whole religious belief from beginning to end," and had "learnt to know G.o.d" in the years immediately preceding her active work in the world. Her belief helped to sustain her natural courage amidst the horrors of Scutari, and the fever and the cold of Balaclava. It inspired the life of arduous labour to which she devoted herself on returning from the East. It informed her unceasing efforts for the health of the Army and the people, for the reformation of hospitals, for the creation of an art of nursing. Does some one, echoing the words of M. Mohl which I have quoted above, doubt whether any vital force can have proceeded from a belief in Law as the Thought of G.o.d, and suggest that to herself as to others she was offering a stone instead of bread? It was not so. To her the religion which she found was as the body and blood of the Most High. It is impossible to doubt the spiritual intensity, the religious fervour, of pa.s.sages such as these from the pages in _Suggestions for Thought_ in which she describes "Communion with G.o.d":--

If it is said "we cannot love a _law_,"--the mode in which G.o.d reveals Himself--the answer is, we _can_ love the spirit which originates, which is manifested in, the law. It is not the material presence only that we love in our fellow-creatures. It is the spirit, which bespeaks the material presence, that we love. Shall we then not love the spirit of all that is loveable, which _all_ material presence bespeaks to us?... How penetrated must those have been who first, genuinely, had the conception, who felt, who thought, whose imaginations helped them to conceive, that the Divine Verity manifests itself in the human, partakes itself, becomes one with the human, descends into the h.e.l.l of sin and suffering with the human, by being "verily and indeed taken and received" by the human!... We will seek continually (and stimulate mankind to seek with us) to prepare the eye and the ear of the great human existence that seeing it _shall_ perceive, and hearing it _shall_ understand.... "Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of G.o.d." To do it "to the glory of G.o.d"

must be to fulfil the Lord's purpose. That purpose is man's increase in truth, increase in right being. The history of mankind should be, _will_ be one day, the history of man's endeavour after increase of truth, and after a right nature.... What does ignorant finite man want? How great, how suffering, yet how sublime are his wants! Think of his wounded aching heart, as compared with the bird and beast! his longing eye, his speaking countenance, compared with these! _they_ show something of such difference, but nothing, nothing compared with what is within, where no eye can read. What then, poor sufferer, dost thou want? I want a wise and loving counsellor, whose love and wisdom should come home to the whole of my nature. I would work, oh! how gladly, but I want direction how to work. I would suffer, oh! how willingly, but for a purpose....

G.o.d always speaks plain in His laws--His everlasting voice.... My poor child, He says, dost thou complain that I do not prematurely give thee food which thou couldst not digest? My son, I am always one with thee, though thou art not always one with me. That spirit racked or blighted by sin, my child, it is thy Father's spirit.

Whence comes it, why does it suffer, or why is it blighted, but that it is incipient love, and truth, and wisdom, tortured or suppressed? But Law (that is, the will of the Perfect) is now, was without beginning, and ever shall be, as the inducement and the means by which that blight or suffering which is G.o.d within man, shall become man one with G.o.d.

First find the Infinite, said a wise man, then name Him as thou wilt.

"It is not hard to know G.o.d," said Joubert, "provided one will not force oneself to define Him." And another, of old time, said:--

Lead Thou me, G.o.d, Law, Reason, Duty, Life!

All names for Thee alike are vain and hollow.[362]

[362] Cleanthes, freely rendered by J. A. Symonds.

There is a section of Miss Nightingale's _Suggestions for Thought_ called "Ca.s.sandra." It is the story of a girl's imprisoned life; it is in part autobiographical, and I have quoted from it several times in the course of this work. It ends with the death of the heroine. "Let neither name nor date be placed on her grave, still less the expression of regret or of admiration; but simply the words, _I believe in G.o.d_."




Few women, and not many men, have lived a fuller and busier life than was Miss Nightingale's during the five years which followed her return from the Crimean War. They were years of public work, but of work done in quiet. And what is more remarkable, they were years to her of constant physical weakness.

At the turn of the year 1857-8 she was thought like to die. There were many times during the year 1859 when she and her friends expected her death at any moment. "Thank you," wrote George Eliot to Miss Hennell in February, "for sending me that authentic word about Miss Nightingale. I wonder if she would rather rest from her blessed labours, or live to go on working. Sometimes when I read of the death of some great sensitive human being, I have a triumph in the sense that they are at rest; and yet, along with that, deep sadness at the thought that the rare nature is gone for ever into the darkness."[363] In the same year Miss Nightingale gave Mr. Clough full instructions for her funeral. To her friend, Colonel Lefroy, she had written as if the end were very near.

"What a crown yours will be," he answered (March 20), "when you rest from your labours and your works follow you!" A year later she wrote to Mr. Manning (Feb. 25): "Dear Sir, or dear Friend (whichever I may call you), I am in the land of the living still, as you see, contrary to everybody's expectation, but so much weaker than when you were so kind as to come here, that I do not sit up at all now." "_Nunc dimittis_,"

she added, "is the only prayer I can make now as far as regards myself."

Yet during all the time she was full of energy and fire, and lived laborious days in writing and in talking. If the reader will turn to the Bibliography (1858-1861), he will see at a glance how numerous were her printed works, and preceding chapters have enabled him to estimate the amount of toil and thought that lay behind them. Her unprinted Memoranda are on a like scale, and her correspondence was enormous. Then, too, hardly a day pa.s.sed upon which she did not transact business personally with one or other, or with several, of her "Cabinet."

[363] _George Eliot's Life as related in her Letters_, vol. ii. p. 84.

Among persons whom Miss Nightingale declined, on the ground of failing health, to receive (and the number included old friends and colleagues as well as strangers), there were some who would not believe that she was as ill as she said; they thought that she was cloaking hardness of heart or perversity of temper. But they were wrong. Among occasional visitors, again, whom she did receive, there were those to whom the evidence of their senses, derived from her animated and vigorous conversation, seemed to negative the idea that she was a serious invalid. But they did not understand. Sir John Lawrence, for instance, was received in March 1861, to discuss Indian questions. "He found her much better than he expected," so her cousin Hilary reported, "and said so to Dr. Sutherland as he went downstairs. Dr. Sutherland replied, 'You cannot know; but when I go back I shall find her quite _abattue_, and shall not speak another word to her.'" And so it was. Dr. Sutherland found her "trembling all over," and had to administer medical aid. For any interview with a stranger, and for many interviews with her familiar colleagues, she had to save up strength very carefully in advance, and the transaction of any critical business, or the strain of any excitement in conversation, left her prostrate and palpitating afterwards. The doctors now told her that her heart was seriously affected. Mr. Chadwick doubted this. Her father, writing to his wife from London, and describing an evening spent with Florence, said (1861): "Chadwick and Sutherland at dinner; the former persisting that Flo's voice alone is sufficient to show that her (so called) heart complaint is doubtful. In truth she still seems to work like a Hercules in spite of all weakness." She worked without pause, but there were times when for weeks she did not leave her sofa or her bed, and for months did not go out of doors. It may be, as Mr. Chadwick thought, that the diagnosis of the physicians was wrong, or at any rate that it exaggerated the seriousness of the case. As she lived to be ninety, the truth must be, I suppose, that none of her vital organs or functions were at this time diseased. The history of her case points, I am told, to dilatation of the heart and neurasthenia. The former of these states, though often distressing in its symptoms, yields, I understand, to drugs and rest; and for the atonic condition of the nervous system, which is called neurasthenia, and which is often the product of excessive stress upon the functions of the mind, complete rest is also often a remedy. If upon her return to England Miss Nightingale had taken a long period of rest, it is probable that she would have regained normal health of body; but, as we have seen, she allowed herself no rest at all. She taxed exhausted powers of body to the uttermost. Even now complete rest would probably have cured her; but as she could not or would not put work aside, she was only able to carry it on by careful husbandry of her strength.


This state of the case led to a way of life which during the years now under consideration seemed a matter of necessity, and which in later and less strenuous years had become, perhaps, in some degree a matter of habit. Miss Nightingale, during the busy years 1856-61, lived the life of a laborious hermit--a life which may in some respects be likened to that of Queen Victoria in the years following the death of the Prince Consort. In her own secluded court she worked indefatigably, but she screened herself closely from the world. After the year 1858, Miss Nightingale abandoned Malvern, and for change of air went instead to one or other of the Northern Heights of London. For the rest of the time she lived in London itself; and sometimes, when she was living at Hampstead, she would drive daily to her London quarters for the transaction of business. Whether in London or at Hampstead or Highgate, she did most of her work reclining on a sofa. She must have been touched when an upholsterer, hearing of her illness, volunteered (March 1860) to make a reclining couch to her order; he offered it "as some slight token of the esteem she is held in by the for her kindness to our soldiers, many of whom are related to my workmen who would gladly work in her behalf without pay."

The screen from the outside world was provided by the devotion of relations and a few intimate friends. In official business, connected with the War Office and Hospitals, her most constant helper was Dr.

Sutherland. When not engaged on official business elsewhere, he was with her nearly every day, and a large number of her drafts, copies, and memoranda of this date are in his handwriting. Captain Galton also rendered some a.s.sistance of a like sort. Among her kinsfolk, the most helpful to her was Mr. Clough, who, besides being the Secretary of the Nightingale Fund, was devoted in many ways to her service. A little note from him (Feb. 16, 1859), one of many, will show the kind of thing:--"w.i.l.l.y-nilly, you must stay till The railway carriage is ordered. At Euston Station they do not admit that is a later day for the Express than any other; let us hope they are right. The arrangements are therefore made for I think you must allow me to see them carried out myself. I enclose a yellow and maladive-looking letter, apparently from

Whom shall we hang At Pulo-penang.

There was also a brown paper parcel with, I think, two blue books inside it, from Mr. Alexander, which I left lying at the Burlington. The rooms will all be ready, as before. I send a _Daily News_ with H[arriet]

M[artineau]'s latest on the Eternal Laws.--Farewell, A. H. Clough." Her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Smith, also played helpful parts at this time in Miss Nightingale's life. Of her Aunt Mai and herself, Miss Nightingale wrote that they were "as two lovers," and the aunt played a lover's part both in affectionate solicitude and in keeping the rest of the world away. Mr. Smith, who was an Examiner of Private Bills, had rooms conveniently situated in Whitehall, and placed his business-like habits entirely at his niece's service. Much of her correspondence, in the case of outsiders, was undertaken by him, and he also acted as her banker and accountant. He found some reward, perhaps, for the drudgery in the pungency of the dockets in which Miss Nightingale conveyed her instructions. On the letter from a lady working at Clewer, who "loved and honoured" Miss Nightingale, and looked forward to seeing her some day, the docket is: "Dear Uncle Sam, Please choke off this woman and tell her that I shall _never_ be well enough to see her, either here or _hereafter_." To the Secretary of a certain Sanitary a.s.sociation: "I will give 21s. for Mrs. S.'s sake, _provided_ they don't send me any more of their stupid books, and don't let this unbusiness-like woman write any more of these unbusiness-like letters." To be unbusiness-like was, in Miss Nightingale's eyes, an unpardonable sin, whether in woman or in man; in a woman, it was almost as bad as another which is touched upon in one of the dockets: "Choke her off; my private belief is that she merely wants a chance of getting married." On a letter of a very rambling kind from a would-be nurse, Uncle Sam's attention is called to "the curious thing that she does not seem to know whether it is a parent or a child that she has lost." To a reverend gentleman who had "a secret cure": "These miserable ecclesiastical quacks! Could you give them a lesson? What would they think of me did I possess such a discovery and keep it secret?" To the inventor of a patent bed-quilt: "This man's letter reminds me of the Pills which, when taken by a gentleman with a wooden leg, made it grow again." To the British Army Scripture Readers she will send a subscription, though with some misgiving: "I am like Paul Ferroll, who never would engage in anything, knowing that he was a murderer, and might be found out any day. So _I_ think." Her uncle had read her religious speculations, and would have caught the allusion to her heterodox opinions. To a pious lady who sent a tract: "Please answer this fool, but don't give her my address." Miss Nightingale disliked tracts. She received great bundles of them for distribution at Scutari. "I said I distributed them," she once confessed, "whether to the fire or not, I did not say." Like all female celebrities, Miss Nightingale received many offers of marriage. A letter, which she wrote in the papers in support of the Volunteer movement, produced several.

One was from "a poor engineer" who was profoundly touched by her "n.o.ble sentiments," and feared that only in Heaven would her holy work be truly appreciated, but meanwhile offered his "hand and heart, which are free, only you are so much above me." "It is gratifying to observe," Uncle Sam is told, "that this is not the first fruits, but the one-and-fortieth of my Volunteer letter; and that I could have as many husbands as Mahomet's mother. Alas! it is I who am the grey donkey." To a pet.i.tioner who sent copies of verses to accompany accounts of his evangelical principles and pecuniary embarra.s.sments: "This is the _third_ time the man has written.

I think it is time you put a stop to him and his 'poetry.'" Miss Nightingale detested gush almost as much as unbusiness-like habits (if indeed the two things need be distinguished). She kept everything she received; but in looking through the presentation copies of poems in her library, I was struck, and I fear that the donors would have been pained, by the fact that she seldom had the curiosity even to cut the leaves where her praises are sung. To a very long-winded appeal from a lady who claimed "the thrilling honour of Miss Nightingale's sympathy": "I believe all this, though I don't know the woman from Adam. Send her 2 for me, at the same time giving her a hint to look at _Bleak House_."

But Mr. Smith, though not a member of Parliament, was an old parliamentary hand, and I have seen copies of some of the admirable letters in which he carried out, more or less, his niece's instructions.

I feel confident that he did not wound this pet.i.tioner's feelings by allusion to Mrs. Jellyby or Borrioboola-Gha. Nor was it supposed that he would. Miss Nightingale seldom denied herself a joke; but though she had a keen scent for palpable humbug, and was instantly offended by it, her heart was easily touched, and I am not sure that all her pecuniary benefactions, which were constant, numerous, and manifold, would have pa.s.sed the test of a strict Charity Organization Committee. Often, however, she took great pains in following up "cases," and in relieving them in the best way. She was particularly open to appeals from the widows or other relations of soldiers and sailors. Her intimate knowledge of hospitals and other charitable inst.i.tutions, and the favour of Queen Victoria in placing many beds at her disposal, increased her means of helpfulness. Many of her pet.i.tioners, especially if they were autograph-hunters in disguise, were disappointed, no doubt, at not receiving an answer from Miss Nightingale herself, but pecuniarily they were sometimes the gainers. On many of their letters I find this supplementary docket from kind-hearted Uncle Sam: "Sent also something on my own account." And sometimes he sent something when she had said send nothing, and she got the credit for it: "Dear Uncle Sam, I am so glad to think that I am laying up such a store in heaven upon _your_ 2 sent without my permission to this woman." The uncle's tongue was almost as sharp and witty, I have been told, as the niece's pen, and he must have found her comments very congenial.


The places at which Miss Nightingale lay _perdue_ during these years were West Hill Lodge, Highgate--the house of the Howitts (May-June 1859); Montague Grove, Hampstead; Oak Hill House, Frognal (Sept. 1859 to Jan. 1860); and Upper Terrace Lodge (No. 3), Hampstead (end of 1860). At one time, when Mr. Clough was abroad in search of health, his young children stayed with their aunt at Hampstead, and her letters show that she took pleasure in their pleasures on the Heath. A letter to Mrs.

Clough (Hampstead, Sept. 1, 1860) contains as pretty a description of a young child as may anywhere be found: "'It' came in its flannel coat to see me. No one had ever prepared me for its Royalty. It sat quite upright, but would not say a word, good or bad. The cats jumped up upon it. It put out its hand with a kind of gracious dignity and caressed them, as if they were presenting Addresses, and they responded in a humble, grateful way, quite cowed by infant majesty. Then it put out its little bare cold feet for me to warm, which when I did, it smiled. In about twenty minutes, it waved its hand to go away, still without speaking a word. I think it is the most beautifully organized little piece of humanity I ever saw."

The scene of Miss Nightingale's London "court" was the Burlington Hotel.

In April 1861 Colonel Phipps wrote to Sir Harry Verney: "It has been arranged that an 'apartment' at Kensington Palace shall be put into proper repair with a view to its being offered by the Queen to Miss Nightingale as a residence. I need not tell you how grateful it will be to the Queen's feelings, even in this slight degree, to be able to mark her respect for this most excellent lady of whom everybody in this country must be proud." But the Queen's offer was respectfully declined.

Those were days when there were no motor-cars or underground railways; and Miss Nightingale, immersed in daily business with men of affairs, felt that a residence so remote from official London as Kensington Palace would deprive her of many opportunities for useful work. She remained, accordingly, at the Burlington, where she had a small suite of apartments in a house attached to the hotel. It comprised on an upper floor a bedroom, a dressing-room, a room for her maid, and a spare bedroom, and on a lower floor a sitting-room. The spare bedroom enabled her to send "dine-and-sleep" invitations to busy men who were working with her. On such occasions she would invite other members of her "Cabinet" to dinner or to breakfast, but she seldom was able to sit down to table with them.

Hired rooms, in hotels or lodgings, gave Miss Nightingale for many years of her life all that she wanted in such sort. The smaller the home, the greater the quiet. She was entirely free from dependence upon, or affection for, "things." She simplified life by reducing her impedimenta to the smallest compa.s.s. Her father in an incautious moment, once wrote of sending some things for her "drawing-room" at the Burlington. She replied indignantly that she had no drawing-room; a thing which was "the destruction of so many women's lives." "There are always flowers in her rooms," wrote her cousin Beatrice to Mr. Nightingale "but so many Blue-books that I should think she could not complain of their looking like drawing-rooms." "I saw her," wrote her sister to Madame Mohl (Feb.

1861), "just before we came here [Embley], and found the table covered, among her beautiful flowers sent her by all sorts of people, with Indian Reports and plans of new Hospitals." She was always fond of flowers. She believed, too, in their curative, or at any rate consolatory, effect upon the sick, and had made some study of their several colours in this respect.[364] With flowers and fruit and game she was abundantly supplied, by her friend Lady Ashburton, among others, and by her admirer, Lady Burdett-Coutts. She forwarded many of such gifts to friends, nurses, and hospitals. She asked her mother to send greenery and flowers from the country for the London hospitals: "It gives such pleasure to people who never see anything but four walls." She was particularly thoughtful of the Bermondsey Nuns who had served with her in the Crimean War. She was constantly solicitous about the Reverend Mother's health, as were the Sisters about _hers_. "I am always praying for you," wrote one of them (her "Cardinal," Sister Gonzaga), "and your health is no credit to my piety." Her little household always included some cats, of which she was very fond. Madame Mohl had given her a family of fine Persians, some of them yellow and striped, almost like tigers, and very wild. In a letter to Sir James Paget, she seems to have complained that St. Bartholomew's Hospital did not quite reciprocate her admiration; yet she had a cat named Barts as well as one named Tom. Sir James would communicate this evidence of affection to his colleagues; but the fact was, he added, that "Thomas is a very boastful fellow, and says sometimes that the lady thinks meanly of every one but him." Miss Nightingale's fondness for cats was shared by her father, and many of her letters to him, and of his to her, pa.s.s from problems of metaphysics to the less riddling antics of kittens.

[364] _Notes on Nursing_, ed. 1860, p. 88.


A diet of Blue-books has been likened by Lord Rosebery to one of cracknel biscuits. But Miss Nightingale hungered and thirsted after facts, and only complained of Blue-books when they did not give so many facts and figures as were reasonably containable in the given cubic s.p.a.ce. "It may seem a strange recreation," wrote Mr. Jowett to her (May 11, 1861), "to offer to a lady who is ill a discussion on metaphysics or theology. But I hear that you still feel interested in such subjects, and therefore may I venture to try and entertain you?" There follows a long disquisition upon Freedom and Necessity and other high matters. Mr.

Jowett was correctly informed. There was nothing which Miss Nightingale more enjoyed than metaphysical discussion. It was not so much that she found in it an intellectual contrast to the problems of practical administration in which she was at other times engaged, but rather, as I have suggested in the preceding chapter, that she believed it possible to attain in the region of philosophy and religion the same positive results that are deducible in sanitary science. For recreation, she turned occasionally to fiction. She corresponded with Mrs. Archer Clive on the plot of _Paul Ferroll_. In a different sort, the novels of another friend pleased her. "She said of your _Ruth_ this morning,"

wrote her cousin Hilary to Mrs. Gaskell (Sept. 6, 1859), "'It is a beautiful novel, and I think I like it better still than when I first read it six years ago.' We had sent for _Ruth_ to lie on her table and tempt her, and she bids me ask now for _North and South_, which also she read of old." Miss Nightingale, who as a girl was music-mad, found occasional solace in hearing it. She says in _Notes on Nursing_ that "wind instruments, including the human voice, and stringed instruments, capable of continuous sound," have generally a soothing effect upon invalids, "while the pianoforte, with such instruments as have _no_ continuity of sound, has just the reverse." There was an evening in October 1860 when Miss Nightingale had a great treat. Clara Novello (Contessa Gigliucci) was one of many women in whom the heroine of the Crimea inspired a pa.s.sionate admiration, and she begged to be allowed to come and sing to the invalid. "I shall never in my life forget the evening," she wrote to Miss Nightingale's cousin (Oct. 26); "the agitation I experienced made me unable to leave my bed all next day. I never remember to have felt such emotions. As I had the delight of kissing those lovely and blessed hands, blessed in their deeds and blessed by so many, and looked into that dear tender face, I could not restrain my tears, just such tears as rise when one hears a lovely melody or is told of an heroic deed!" Miss Nightingale presently wrote a letter of thanks, saying that the singing had "restored" her, and the Contessa replied: "I can say with entire truth that G.o.d's gift to me of voice has never given me so much delight as when I was able to sing to you, tho' probably I never sang so ill." The Contessa was a Garibaldian, and this was a further link between her and Miss Nightingale, whose enthusiasm in the cause of Italian unity and liberation was of long standing. She sent several subscriptions in 1860 to funds which were collected in this country for the Garibaldian cause. Her cheques were made payable to "Garibaldi," and she expressed a hope that they would be used in the purchase of arms. "I quite agree," she wrote (June), "with the Patriots who say, Better give money for arms than to heal the holes the arms have made." She was often more of a soldier than of a nurse.

The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 40

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The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 40 summary

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