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Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey

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independence, but the particular profession for which Florence
was clearly marked out both by her instincts and her capacities
was at that time a peculiarly disreputable one. A 'nurse' meant
then a coarse old woman, always ignorant, usually dirty, often
brutal, a Mrs. Gamp, in bunched-up sordid garments, tippling at
the brandy bottle or indulging in worse irregularities. The
nurses in the hospitals were especially notorious for immoral
conduct; sobriety was almost unknown among them; and they could
hardly be trusted to carry out the simplest medical duties.

Certainly, things HAVE changed since those days; and that they
have changed is due, far more than to any other human being, to
Miss Nightingale herself. It is not to be wondered at that her
parents should have shuddered at the notion of their daughter
devoting her life to such an occupation. 'It was as if,' she
herself said afterwards, 'I had wanted to be a kitchen-maid.' Yet
the want, absurd and impracticable as it was, not only remained
fixed immovably in her heart, but grew in intensity day by day.
Her wretchedness deepened into a morbid melancholy. Everything
about her was vile, and she herself, it was clear, to have
deserved such misery, was even viler than her surroundings. Yes,
she had sinned--'standing before God's judgment seat'. 'No one,'
she declared, 'has so grieved the Holy Spirit'; of that she was
quite certain. It was in vain that she prayed to be delivered
from vanity and hypocrisy, and she could not bear to smile or to
be gay, 'because she hated God to hear her laugh, as if she had
not repented of her sin'.

A weaker spirit would have been overwhelmed by the load of such
distresses-- would have yielded or snapped. But this
extraordinary young woman held firm, and fought her way to
victory. With an amazing persistency, during the eight years that
followed her rebuff over Salisbury Hospital, she struggled and
worked and planned. While superficially she was carrying on the
life of a brilliant girl in high society, while internally she
was a prey to the tortures of regret and of remorse, she yet
possessed the energy to collect the knowledge and to undergo the
experience which alone could enable her to do what she had
determined she would do in the end. In secret she devoured the
reports of medical commissions, the pamphlets of sanitary
authorities, the histories of hospitals and homes. She spent the
intervals of the London season in ragged schools and workhouses.
When she went abroad with her family, she used her spare time so
well that there was hardly a great hospital in Europe with which
she was not acquainted; hardly a great city whose shims she had
not passed through. She managed to spend some days in a convent
school in Rome, and some weeks as a 'Soeur de Charite' in Paris.
Then, while her mother and sister were taking the waters at
Carlsbad, she succeeded in slipping off to a nursing institution
at Kaiserswerth, where she remained for more than three months.
This was the critical event of her life. The experience which she
gained as a nurse at Kaiserswerth formed the foundation of all
her future action and finally fixed her in her career.

But one other trial awaited her. The allurements of the world she
had brushed aside with disdain and loathing; she had resisted the
subtler temptation which, in her weariness, had sometimes come
upon her, of devoting her baffled energies to art or literature;
the last ordeal appeared in the shape of a desirable young man.
Hitherto, her lovers had been nothing to her but an added burden
and a mockery; but now-- for a moment-- she wavered. A new
feeling swept over her--a feeling which she had never known
before-- which she was never to know again. The most powerful and
the profoundest of all the instincts of humanity laid claim upon
her. But it rose before her, that instinct, arrayed--how could it
be otherwise?-- in the inevitable habiliments of a Victorian
marriage; and she had the strength to stamp it underfoot. 'I have
an intellectual nature which requires satisfaction,' she noted,
'and that would find it in him. I have a passionate nature which
requires satisfaction, and that would find it in him. I have a
moral, an active nature which requires satisfaction, and that
would not find it in his life. Sometimes I think that I will
satisfy my passionate nature at all events. ...'

But no, she knew in her heart that it could not be. 'To be nailed
to a continuation and exaggeration of my present life ... to put
it out of my power ever to be able to seize the chance of forming
for myself a true and rich life'--that would be a suicide. She
made her choice, and refused what was at least a certain
happiness for a visionary good which might never come to her at
all. And so she returned to her old life of waiting and
bitterness. 'The thoughts and feelings that I have now,' she
wrote, 'I can remember since I was six years old. A profession, a
trade, a necessary occupation, something to fill and employ all
my faculties, I have always felt essential to me, I have always
longed for. The first thought I can remember, and the last, was
nursing work; and in the absence of this, education work, but
more the education of the bad than of the young... Everything
has been tried-- foreign travel, kind friends, everything. My
God! What is to become of me?' A desirable young man? Dust and
ashes! What was there desirable in such a thing as that? 'In my
thirty-first year,' she noted in her diary, 'I see nothing
desirable but death.'

Three more years passed, and then at last the pressure of time
told; her family seemed to realise that she was old enough and
strong enough to have her way; and she became the superintendent
of a charitable nursing home in Harley Street. She had gained her
independence, though it was in a meagre sphere enough; and her
mother was still not quite resigned: surely Florence might at
least spend the summer in the country. At times, indeed, among
her intimates, Mrs. Nightingale almost wept. 'We are ducks,' she
said with tears in her eyes, 'who have hatched a wild swan.' But
the poor lady was wrong; it was not a swan that they had hatched,
it was an eagle.


Miss NIGHTINGALE had been a year in her nursing-home in Harley
Street, when Fate knocked at the door. The Crimean War broke out;
the battle of the Alma was fought; and the terrible condition of
our military hospitals at Scutari began to be known in England.
It sometimes happens that the plans of Providence are a little
difficult to follow, but on this occasion all was plain; there
was a perfect coordination of events. For years Miss Nightingale
had been getting ready; at last she was prepared-- experienced,
free, mature, yet still young (she was thirty-four)-- desirous to
serve, accustomed to command: at that precise moment the
desperate need of a great nation came, and she was there to
satisfy it. If the war had fallen a few years earlier, she would
have lacked the knowledge, perhaps even the power, for such a
work; a few years later and she would, no doubt, have been fixed
in the routine of some absorbing task, and moreover, she would
have been growing old.

Nor was it only the coincidence of time that was remarkable. It
so fell out that Sidney Herbert was at the War Office and in the
Cabinet; and Sidney Herbert was an intimate friend of Miss
Nightingale's, convinced, from personal experience in charitable
work, of her supreme capacity. After such premises, it seems
hardly more than a matter of course that her letter, in which she
offered her services for the East, and Sidney Herbert's letter,
in which he asked for them, should actually have crossed in the
post. Thus it all happened, without a hitch. The appointment was
made and even Mrs. Nightingale, overawed by the magnitude of the
venture, could only approve. A pair of faithful friends offered
themselves as personal attendants; thirty-eight nurses were
collected; and within a week of the crossing of the letters Miss
Nightingale, amid a great burst of popular enthusiasm, left for

Among the numerous letters which she received on her departure
was one from Dr. Manning, who at that time was working in
comparative obscurity as a Catholic priest in Bayswater. 'God
will keep you,' he wrote, 'and my prayer for you will be that
your one object of worship, Pattern of Imitation, and source of
consolation and strength, may be the Sacred Heart of our Divine

To what extent Dr. Manning's prayer was answered must remain a
matter of doubt; but this much is certain: that if ever a prayer
was needed, it was needed then for Florence Nightingale. For dark
as had been the picture of the state of affairs at Scutari,
revealed to the English public in the dispatches of "The Times
Correspondent", and in a multitude of private letters, yet the
reality turned out to be darker still. What had occurred was, in
brief, the complete breakdown of our medical arrangements at the
seat of war. The origins of this awful failure were complex and
manifold; they stretched back through long years of peace and
carelessness in England; they could be traced through endless
ramifications of administrative incapacity-- from the inherent
faults of confused systems, to the petty bunglings of minor
officials, from the inevitable ignorance of Cabinet Ministers, to
the fatal exactitudes of narrow routine.

In the inquiries which followed, it was clearly shown that the
evil was in reality that worst of all evils-- one which has been
caused by nothing in particular and for which no one in
particular is to blame. The whole organisation of the war machine
was incompetent and out of date. The old Duke had sat for a
generation at the Horse Guards repressing innovations with an
iron hand. There was an extraordinary overlapping of authorities
and an almost incredible shifting of responsibilities to and fro.
As for such a notion as the creation and the maintenance of a
really adequate medical service for the army-- in that atmosphere
of aged chaos, how could it have entered anybody's head? Before
the war, the easygoing officials at Westminster were naturally
persuaded that all was well-- or at least as well as could be
expected; when someone, for instance, actually had the temerity
to suggest the formation of a corps of Army nurses, he was at
once laughed out of court. When the war had begun, the gallant
British officers in control of affairs had other things to think
about than the petty details of medical organisation. Who had
bothered with such trifles in the Peninsula? And surely, on that
occasion, we had done pretty well. Thus, the most obvious
precautions were neglected, and the most necessary preparations
were put off from day to day. The principal medical officer of
the Army, Dr. Hall, was summoned from India at a moment's notice,
and was unable to visit England before taking up his duties at
the front. And it was not until after the battle of the Alma,
when we had been at war for many months, that we acquired
hospital accommodations at Scutari for more than a thousand men.
Errors, follies, and vices on the part of individuals there
doubtless were; but, in the general reckoning, they were of small
account-- insignificant symptoms of the deep disease of the body
politic-- to the enormous calamity of administrative collapse.

Miss Nightingale arrived at Scutari-- a suburb of Constantinople,
on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus-- on November 4th, 1854; it
was ten days after the battle of Balaclava, and the day before
the battle of Inkerman. The organisation of the hospitals, which
had already given way under the stress of the battle of the Alma,
was now to be subjected to the further pressure which these two
desperate and bloody engagements implied. Great detachments of
wounded were already beginning to pour in. The men, after
receiving such summary treatment as could be given them at the
smaller hospitals in the Crimea itself, were forthwith shipped in
batches of 200 across the Black Sea to Scutari. This voyage was
in normal times one of four days and a half; but the times were
no longer normal, and now the transit often lasted for a
fortnight or three weeks. It received, not without reason, the
name of the 'middle passage'. Between, and sometimes on the
decks, the wounded, the sick, and the dying were crowded-- men
who had just undergone the amputation of limbs, men in the
clutches of fever or of frostbite, men in the last stages of
dysentry and cholera-- without beds, sometimes without blankets,
often hardly clothed. The one or two surgeons on board did what
they could; but medical stores were lacking, and the only form of
nursing available was that provided by a handful of invalid
soldiers who were usually themselves prostrate by the end of the
voyage. There was no other food beside the ordinary salt rations
of ship diet; and even the water was sometimes so stored that it
was out of reach of the weak. For many months, the average of
deaths during these voyages was seventy-four in 1,000; the
corpses were shot out into the waters; and who shall say that
they were the most unfortunate? At Scutari, the landing-stage,
constructed with all the perverseness of Oriental ingenuity,
could only be approached with great difficulty, and, in rough
weather, not at all. When it was reached, what remained of the
men in the ships had first to be disembarked, and then conveyed
up a steep slope of a quarter of a mile to the nearest of the
hospitals. The most serious cases might be put upon stretchers--
for there were far too few for all; the rest were carried or
dragged up the hill by such convalescent soldiers as could be got
together, who were not too obviously infirm for the work. At last
the journey was accomplished; slowly, one by one, living or
dying, the wounded were carried up into the hospital. And in the
hospital what did they find?

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate: the delusive doors bore
no such inscription; and yet behind them Hell yawned. Want,
neglect, confusion, misery-- in every shape and in every degree
of intensity-- filled the endless corridors and the vast
apartments of the gigantic barrack-house, which, without
forethought or preparation, had been hurriedly set aside as the
chief shelter for the victims of the war. The very building
itself was radically defective. Huge sewers underlay it, and
cesspools loaded with filth wafted their poison into the upper
rooms. The floors were in so rotten a condition that many of them
could not be scrubbed; the walls were thick with dirt; incredible
multitudes of vermin swarmed everywhere. And, enormous as the
building was, it was yet too small. It contained four miles of
beds, crushed together so close that there was but just room to
pass between them. Under such conditions, the most elaborate
system of ventilation might well have been at fault; but here
there was no ventilation. The stench was indescribable. 'I have
been well acquainted,' said Miss Nightingale, 'with the dwellings
of the worst parts of most of the great cities in Europe, but
have never been in any atmosphere which I could compare with that
of the Barrack Hospital at night.' The structural defects were
equalled by the deficiencies in the commonest objects of hospital
use. There were not enough bedsteads; the sheets were of canvas,
and so coarse that the wounded men recoiled from them, begging to
be left in their blankets; there was no bedroom furniture of any
kind, and empty beer bottles were used for candlesticks. There
were no basins, no towels, no soap, no brooms, no mops, no trays,
no plates; there were neither slippers nor scissors, neither
shoe-brushes nor blacking; there were no knives or forks or
spoons. The supply of fuel was constantly deficient. The cooking
arrangements were preposterously inadequate, and the laundry was
a farce. As for purely medical materials, the tale was no better.
Stretchers, splints, bandages--all were lacking; and so were the
most ordinary drugs.

To replace such wants, to struggle against such difficulties,
there was a handful of men overburdened by the strain of
ceaseless work, bound down by the traditions of official routine,
and enfeebled either by old age or inexperience or sheer
incompetence. They had proved utterly unequal to their task. The
principal doctor was lost in the imbecilities of a senile
optimism. The wretched official whose business it was to provide
for the wants of the hospital was tied fast hand and foot by red
tape. A few of the younger doctors struggled valiantly, but what
could they do? Unprepared, disorganised, with such help only as
they could find among the miserable band of convalescent soldiers
drafted off to tend their sick comrades, they were faced with
disease, mutilation, and death in all their most appalling forms,
crowded multitudinously about them in an ever-increasing mass.
They were like men in a shipwreck, fighting, not for safety, but
for the next moment's bare existence-- to gain, by yet another
frenzied effort, some brief respite from the waters of

In these surroundings, those who had been long inured to scenes
of human suffering-- surgeons with a world-wide knowledge of
agonies, soldiers familiar with fields of carnage, missionaries
with remembrances of famine and of plague-- yet found a depth of
horror which they had never known before. There were moments,
there were places, in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari, where the
strongest hand was struck with trembling, and the boldest eye
would turn away its gaze.

Miss Nightingale came, and she, at any rate, in that inferno, did
not abandon hope. For one thing, she brought material succour.
Before she left London she had consulted Dr. Andrew Smith, the
head of the Army Medical Board, as to whether it would be useful
to take out stores of any kind to Scutari; and Dr. Andrew Smith
had told her that 'nothing was needed'. Even Sidney Herbert had
given her similar assurances; possibly, owing to an oversight,
there might have been some delay in the delivery of the medical
stores, which, he said, had been sent out from England 'in
profusion', but 'four days would have remedied this'. She
preferred to trust her own instincts, and at Marseilles purchased
a large quantity of miscellaneous provisions, which were of the
utmost use at Scutari. She came, too, amply provided with money--
in all, during her stay in the East, about 7,000 reached her
from private sources; and, in addition, she was able to avail
herself of another valuable means of help.

At the same time as herself, Mr. Macdonald, of The Times, had
arrived at Scutari, charged with the duty of administering the
large sums of money collected through the agency of that
newspaper in aid of the sick and wounded; and Mr. Macdonald had
the sense to see that the best use he could make of The Times
Fund was to put it at the disposal of Miss Nightingale. 'I cannot
conceive,' wrote an eye-witness, 'as I now calmly look back on
the first three weeks after the arrival of the wounded from
Inkerman, how it could have been possible to have avoided a state
of things too disastrous to contemplate, had not Miss Nightingale
been there, with the means placed at her disposal by Mr.
Macdonald.' But the official view was different. What! Was the
public service to admit, by accepting outside charity, that it
was unable to discharge its own duties without the assistance of
private and irregular benevolence? Never! And accordingly when
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, our ambassador at Constantinople,
was asked by Mr. Macdonald to indicate how The Times Fund could
best be employed, he answered that there was indeed one object to
which it might very well be devoted-- the building of an English
Protestant Church at Pera.

Mr. Macdonald did not waste further time with Lord Stratford, and
immediately joined forces with Miss Nightingale. But, with such a
frame of mind in the highest quarters, it is easy to imagine the
kind of disgust and alarm with which the sudden intrusion of a
band of amateurs and females must have filled the minds of the
ordinary officer and the ordinary military surgeon. They could
not understand it-- what had women to do with war? Honest
Colonels relieved their spleen by the cracking of heavy jokes
about 'the Bird'; while poor Dr. Hall, a rough terrier of a man,
who had worried his way to the top of his profession, was struck
speechless with astonishment, and at last observed that Miss
Nightingale's appointment was extremely droll.

Her position was, indeed, an official one, but it was hardly the
easier for that. In the hospitals it was her duty to provide the
services of herself and her nurses when they were asked for by
the doctors, and not until then. At first some of the surgeons
would have nothing to say to her, and, though she was welcomed by
others, the majority were hostile and suspicious. But gradually
she gained ground. Her good will could not be denied, and her
capacity could not be disregarded. With consummate tact, with all
the gentleness of supreme strength, she managed at last to impose
her personality upon the susceptible, overwrought, discouraged,
and helpless group of men in authority who surrounded her. She
stood firm; she was a rock in the angry ocean; with her alone was
safety, comfort, life. And so it was that hope dawned at Scutari.
The reign of chaos and old night began to dwindle; order came
upon the scene, and common sense, and forethought, and decision,
radiating out from the little room off the great gallery in the
Barrack Hospital where, day and night, the Lady Superintendent
was at her task. Progress might be slow, but it was sure.

The first sign of a great change came with the appearance of some
of those necessary objects with which the hospitals had been
unprovided for months. The sick men began to enjoy the use of
towels and soap, knives and forks, combs and tooth-brushes. Dr.
Hall might snort when he heard of it, asking, with a growl, what
a soldier wanted with a tooth-brush; but the good work went on.
Eventually the whole business of purveying to the hospitals was,
in effect, carried out by Miss Nightingale. She alone, it seemed.
whatever the contingency, knew where to lay her hands on what was
wanted; she alone could dispense her stores with readiness; above

all, she alone possessed the art of circumventing the pernicious
influences of official etiquette. This was her greatest enemy,
and sometimes even she was baffled by it. On one occasion 27,000
shirts, sent out at her instance by the Home Government, arrived,
were landed, and were only waiting to be unpacked. But the
official 'Purveyor' intervened; 'he could not unpack them,' he
said, 'with out a Board.' Miss Nightingale pleaded in vain; the
sick and wounded lay half-naked shivering for want of clothing;
and three weeks elapsed before the Board released the shirts. A
little later, however, on a similar occasion, Miss Nightingale
felt that she could assert her own authority. She ordered a
Government consignment to be forcibly opened while the miserable
'Purveyor' stood by, wringing his hands in departmental agony.

Vast quantities of valuable stores sent from England lay, she
found, engulfed in the bottomless abyss of the Turkish Customs
House. Other ship-loads, buried beneath munitions of war destined
for Balaclava, passed Scutari without a sign, and thus hospital
materials were sometimes carried to and fro three times over the
Black Sea, before they reached their destination. The whole
system was clearly at fault, and Miss Nightingale suggested to
the home authorities that a Government Store House should be
instituted at Scutari for the reception and distribution of the
consignments. Six months after her arrival this was done.

In the meantime, she had reorganised the kitchens and the
laundries in the hospitals. The ill-cooked hunks of meat, vilely
served at irregular intervals, which had hitherto been the only
diet for the sick men, were replaced by punctual meals, well-
prepared and appetising, while strengthening extra foods-- soups
and wines and jellies ('preposterous luxuries', snarled Dr. Hall)
--were distributed to those who needed them. One thing, however,
she could not effect. The separation of the bones from the meat
was no part of official cookery: the rule was that the food must
be divided into equal portions, and if some of the portions were
all bone-- well, every man must take his chance. The rule,
perhaps, was not a very good one; but there it was. 'It would
require a new Regulation of the Service,' she was told, 'to bone
the meat.' As for the washing arrangements, they were
revolutionised. Up to the time of Miss Nightingale's arrival, the
number of shirts the authorities had succeeded in washing was
seven. The hospital bedding, she found, was 'washed' in cold
water. She took a Turkish house, had boilers installed, and
employed soldiers' wives to do the laundry work. The expenses
were defrayed from her own funds and that of The Times; and
henceforward, the sick and wounded had the comfort of clean

Then she turned her attention to their clothing. Owing to
military exigencies, the greater number of the men had abandoned
their kit; their knapsacks were lost forever; they possessed
nothing but what was on their persons, and that was usually only
fit for speedy destruction. The 'Purveyor', of course, pointed
out that, according to the regulations, all soldiers should bring
with them into hospital an adequate supply of clothing, and he
declared that it was no business of his to make good their
deficiencies. Apparently, it was the business of Miss
Nightingale. She procured socks, boots, and shirts in enormous
quantities; she had trousers made, she rigged up dressing-gowns.
'The fact is,' she told Sidney Herbert, I am now clothing the
British Army.'

All at once, word came from the Crimea that a great new
contingent of sick and wounded might shortly be expected. Where
were they to go? Every available inch in the wards was occupied;
the affair was serious and pressing, and the authorities stood
aghast. There were some dilapidated rooms in the Barrack
Hospital, unfit for human habitation, but Miss Nightingale
believed that if measures were promptly taken they might be made
capable of accommodating several hundred beds. One of the doctors
agreed with her; the rest of the officials were irresolute-- it
would be a very expensive job, they said; it would involve
building; and who could take the responsibility? The proper
course was that a representation should be made to the Director-
General of the Army Medical Department in London; then the
Director-General would apply to the Horse Guards, the Horse
Guards would move the Ordnance, the Ordnance would lay the matter
before the Treasury, and, if the Treasury gave its consent, the
work might be correctly carried through, several months after the
necessity for it had disappeared. Miss Nightingale, however, had
made up her mind, and she persuaded Lord Stratford-- or thought
she had persuaded him-- to give his sanction to the required
expenditure. One hundred and twenty-five workmen were immediately
engaged, and the work was begun. The workmen struck; whereupon
Lord Stratford washed his hands of the whole business. Miss
Nightingale engaged 200 other workmen on her own authority, and
paid the bill out of her own resources. The wards were ready by
the required date; 500 sick men were received in them; and all
the utensils, including knives, forks, spoons, cans and towels,
were supplied by Miss Nightingale.

This remarkable woman was in truth performing the function of an
administrative chief. How had this come about? Was she not in
reality merely a nurse? Was it not her duty simply to tend the
sick? And indeed, was it not as a ministering angel, a gentle
'lady with a lamp', that she actually impressed the minds of her
contemporaries? No doubt that was so; and yet it is no less
certain that, as she herself said, the specific business of
nursing was 'the least important of the functions into which she
had been forced'. It was clear that in the state of
disorganisation into which the hospitals at Scutari had fallen,
the most pressing, the really vital, need was for something more
than nursing; it was for the necessary elements of civilised
life-- the commonest material objects, the most ordinary
cleanliness, the rudimentary habits of order and authority. 'Oh,
dear Miss Nightingale,' said one of her party as they were
approaching Constantinople, 'when we land, let there be no
delays, let us get straight to nursing the poor fellows!' 'The
strongest will be wanted at the wash-tub,' was Miss Nightingale's
answer. And it was upon the wash-tub, and all that the wash-tub
stood for, that she expended her greatest energies. Yet to say
that, is perhaps to say too much. For to those who watched her at
work among the sick, moving day and night from bed to bed, with
that unflinching courage, with that indefatigable vigilance, it
seemed as if the concentrated force of an undivided and
unparalleled devotion could hardly suffice for that portion of
her task alone.

Wherever, in those vast wards, suffering was at its worst and the
need for help was greatest, there, as if by magic, was Miss
Nightingale. Her superhuman equanimity would, at the moment of
some ghastly operation, nerve the victim to endure, and almost to
hope. Her sympathy would assuage the pangs of dying and bring
back to those still living something of the forgotten charm of
life. Over and over again her untiring efforts rescued those whom
the surgeons had abandoned as beyond the possibility of cure. Her
mere presence brought with it a strange influence. A passionate
idolatry spread among the men-- they kissed her shadow as it
passed. They did more. 'Before she came,' said a soldier, 'there
was cussin' and swearin' but after that it was as 'oly as a
church.' The most cherished privilege of the fighting man was
abandoned for the sake of Miss Nightingale. In those 'lowest
sinks of human misery', as she herself put it, she never heard
the use of one expression 'which could distress a gentlewoman'.

She was heroic; and these were the humble tributes paid by those
of grosser mould to that high quality. Certainly, she was heroic.
Yet her heroism was not of that simple sort so dear to the
readers of novels and the compilers of hagiologies-- the romantic
sentimental heroism with which mankind loves to invest its chosen
darlings: it was made of sterner stuff. To the wounded soldier on
his couch of agony, she might well appear in the guise of a
gracious angel of mercy; but the military surgeons, and the
orderlies, and her own nurses, and the 'Purveyor', and Dr. Hall,
and, even Lord Stratford himself, could tell a different story.
It was not by gentle sweetness and womanly self-abnegation that
she had brought order out of chaos in the Scutari hospitals,
that, from her own resources, she had clothed the British Army,
that she had spread her dominion over the serried and reluctant
powers of the official world; it was by strict method, by stern
discipline, by rigid attention to detail, by ceaseless labour,
and by the fixed determination of an indomitable will.

Beneath her cool and calm demeanour lurked fierce and passionate
fires. As she passed through the wards in her plain dress, so
quiet, so unassuming, she struck the casual observer simply as
the pattern of a perfect lady; but the keener eye perceived
something more than that-- the serenity of high deliberation in
the scope of the capacious brow, the sign of power in the
dominating curve of the thin nose, and the traces of a harsh and
dangerous temper--something peevish, something mocking, and yet
something precise--in the small and delicate mouth. There was
humour in the face; but the curious watcher might wonder whether
it was humour of a very pleasant kind; might ask himself, even as
he heard the laughter and marked the jokes with which she cheered
the spirits of her patients, what sort of sardonic merriment this
same lady might not give vent to, in the privacy of her chamber.
As for her voice, it was true of it, even more than of her
countenance, that it 'had that in it one must fain call master'.
Those clear tones were in no need of emphasis: 'I never heard her
raise her voice', said one of her companions. 'Only when she had
spoken, it seemed as if nothing could follow but obedience.'
Once, when she had given some direction, a doctor ventured to
remark that the thing could not be done. 'But it must be done,'
said Miss Nightingale. A chance bystander, who heard the words,
never forgot through all his life the irresistible authority of
them. And they were spoken quietly-- very quietly indeed.

Late at night, when the long miles of beds lay wrapped in
darkness, Miss Nightingale would sit at work in her little room,
over her correspondence. It was one of the most formidable of all
her duties. There were hundreds of letters to be written to the
friends and relations of soldiers; there was the enormous mass of
official documents to be dealt with; there were her own private
letters to be answered; and, most important of all, there was the
composition of her long and confidential reports to Sidney
Herbert. These were by no means official communications. Her
soul, pent up all day in the restraint and reserve of a vast
responsibility, now at last poured itself out in these letters
with all its natural vehemence, like a swollen torrent through an
open sluice. Here, at least, she did not mince matters. Here she
painted in her darkest colours the hideous scenes which
surrounded her; here she tore away remorselessly the last veils
still shrouding the abominable truth. Then she would fill pages
with recommendations and suggestions, with criticisms of the
minutest details of organisation, with elaborate calculations of
contingencies, with exhaustive analyses and statistical
statements piled up in breathless eagerness one on the top of the
other. And then her pen, in the virulence of its volubility,
would rush on to the discussion of individuals, to the
denunciation of an incompetent surgeon or the ridicule of a self-
sufficient nurse. Her sarcasm searched the ranks of the officials
with the deadly and unsparing precision of a machine-gun. Her
nicknames were terrible. She respected no one: Lord Stratford,
Lord Raglan, Lady Stratford, Dr. Andrew Smith, Dr. Hall, the
Commissary-General, the Purveyor--she fulminated against them
all. The intolerable futility of mankind obsessed her like a
nightmare, and she gnashed her teeth against it. 'I do well to be
angry,' was the burden of her cry. 'How many just men were there
at Scutari? How many who cared at all for the sick, or had done
anything for their relief? Were there ten? Were there five? Was
there even one?' She could not be sure.

At one time, during several weeks, her vituperations descended
upon the head of Sidney Herbert himself. He had misinterpreted
her wishes, he had traversed her positive instructions, and it
was not until he had admitted his error and apologised in abject
terms that he was allowed again into favour. While this
misunderstanding was at its height, an aristocratic young
gentleman arrived at Scutari with a recommendation from the
Minister. He had come out from England filled with a romantic
desire to render homage to the angelic heroine of his dreams. He
had, he said, cast aside his life of ease and luxury; he would
devote his days and nights to the service of that gentle lady; he
would perform the most menial offices, he would 'fag' for her, he
would be her footman-- and feel requited by a single smile. A
single smile, indeed, he had, but it was of an unexpected kind.
Miss Nightingale at first refused to see him, and then, when she
consented, believing that he was an emissary sent by Sidney
Herbert to put her in the wrong over their dispute, she took
notes of her conversation with him, and insisted on his signing
them at the end of it. The young gentleman returned to England by
the next ship.

This quarrel with Sidney Herbert was, however, an exceptional
incident. Alike by him, and by Lord Panmure, his successor at the
War Office, she was firmly supported; and the fact that during
the whole of her stay at Scutari she had the Home Government at
her back, was her trump card in her dealings with the hospital
authorities. Nor was it only the Government that was behind her:
public opinion in England early recognised the high importance of
her mission, and its enthusiastic appreciation of her work soon
reached an extraordinary height. The Queen herself was deeply
moved. She made repeated inquiries as to the welfare of Miss
Nightingale; she asked to see her accounts of the wounded, and
made her the intermediary between the throne and the troops. 'Let
Mrs. Herbert know,' she wrote to the War Minister, 'that I wish
Miss Nightingale and the ladies would tell these poor noble,
wounded, and sick men that NO ONE takes a warmer interest or
feels MORE for their sufferings or admires their courage and
heroism MORE than their Queen. Day and night she thinks of her
beloved troops. So does the Prince. Beg Mrs. Herbert to
communicate these my words to those ladies, as I know that our
sympathy is much valued by these noble fellows.' The letter was
read aloud in the wards by the Chaplain. 'It is a very feeling
letter,' said the men.

And so the months passed, and that fell winter which had begun
with Inkerman and had dragged itself out through the long agony
of the investment of Sebastopol, at last was over. In May, 1855,
after six months of labour, Miss Nightingale could look with
something like satisfaction at the condition of the Scutari
hospitals. Had they done nothing more than survive the terrible
strain which had been put upon them, it would have been a matter
for congratulation; but they had done much more than that-- they
had marvellously improved. The confusion and the pressure in the
wards had come to an end; order reigned in them, and cleanliness;
the supplies were bountiful and prompt; important sanitary works
had been carried out. One simple comparison of figures was enough

to reveal the extraordinary change: the rate of mortality among
the cases treated had fallen from forty-two percent to twenty-two
per 1,000. But still, the indefatigable lady was not satisfied.
The main problem had been solved-- the physical needs of the men
had been provided for; their mental and spiritual needs remained.
She set up and furnished reading-rooms and recreation rooms. She
started classes and lectures. Officers were amazed to see her
treating their men as if they were human beings, and assured her
that she would only end by 'spoiling the brutes'. But that was
not Miss Nightingale's opinion, and she was justified. The
private soldier began to drink less and even-- though that seemed
impossible-- to save his pay. Miss Nightingale became a banker
for the Army, receiving and sending home large sums of money
every month. At last, reluctantly, the Government followed suit,
and established machinery of its own for the remission of
money.Lord Panmure, however, remained sceptical; 'it will do no
good,' he pronounced; 'the British soldier is not a remitting
animal.' But, in fact during the next six months 71,000 was sent

Amid all these activities, Miss Nightingale took up the further
task of inspecting the hospitals in the Crimea itself. The labour
was extreme, and the conditions of life were almost intolerable.
She spent whole days in the saddle, or was driven over those
bleak and rocky heights in a baggage cart. Sometimes she stood
for hours in the heavily failing snow, and would only reach her
hut at dead of night after walking for miles through perilous
ravines. Her powers of resistance seemed incredible, but at last
they were exhausted. She was attacked by fever, and for a moment
came very near to death. Yet she worked on; if she could not
move, she could at least write, and write she did until her mind
had left her; and after it had left her, in what seemed the
delirious trance of death itself, she still wrote. When, after
many weeks, she was strong enough to travel, she was implored to
return to England, but she utterly refused. She would not go
back, she said, before the last of the soldiers had left Scutari.

This happy moment had almost arrived, when suddenly the
smouldering hostilities of the medical authorities burst out into
a flame. Dr. Hall's labours had been rewarded by a K.C.B--
letters which, as Miss Nightingale told Sidney Herbert, she could
only suppose to mean 'Knight of the Crimean Burial-Grounds'-- and
the honour had turned his head. He was Sir John, and he would be
thwarted no longer. Disputes had lately arisen between Miss
Nightingale and some of the nurses in the Crimean hospitals. The
situation had been embittered by rumours of religious
dissensions, while the Crimean nurses were Roman Catholics, many
of those at Scutari were suspected of a regrettable propensity
towards the tenets of Dr. Pusey. Miss Nightingale was by no means
disturbed by these sectarian differences, but any suggestion that
her supreme authority over all the nurses with the Army was, no
doubt, enough to rouse her to fury; and it appeared that Mrs.
Bridgeman, the Reverend Mother in the Crimea, had ventured to
call that authority in question. Sir John Hall thought that his
opportunity had come, and strongly supported Mrs. Bridgeman-- or,
as Miss Nightingale preferred to call her, the 'Reverend

There was a violent struggle; Miss Nightingale's rage was
terrible. Dr. Hall, she declared, was doing his best to 'root her
out of the Crimea'. She would bear it no longer; the War Office
was playing her false; there was only one thing to be done--
Sidney Herbert must move for the production of papers in the
House of Commons, so that the public might be able to judge
between her and her enemies. Sidney Herbert, with great
difficulty, calmed her down. Orders were immediately dispatched
putting her supremacy beyond doubt, and the Reverend Brickbat
withdrew from the scene. Sir John, however, was more tenacious. A
few weeks later, Miss Nightingale and her nurses visited the
Crimea for the last time, and the brilliant idea occurred to him
that he could crush her by a very simple expedient-- he would
starve her into submission; and he actually ordered that no
rations of any kind should be supplied to her. He had already
tried this plan with great effect upon an unfortunate medical man
whose presence in the Crimea he had considered an intrusion; but
he was now to learn that such tricks were thrown away upon Miss
Nightingale. With extraordinary foresight, she had brought with
her a great supply of food; she succeeded in obtaining more at
her own expense and by her own exertions; and thus for ten days,
in that inhospitable country, she was able to feed herself and
twenty-four nurses. Eventually, the military authorities
intervened in her favour, and Sir John had to confess that he was

It was not until July, 1856--four months after the Declaration of
Peace-- that Miss Nightingale left Scutari for England. Her
reputation was now enormous, and the enthusiasm of the public was
unbounded. The royal approbation was expressed by the gift of a
brooch, accompanied by a private letter. 'You are, I know, well
aware,' wrote Her Majesty, 'of the high sense I entertain of the
Christian devotion which you have displayed during this great and
bloody war, and I need hardly repeat to you how warm my
admiration is for your services, which are fully equal to those
of my dear and brave soldiers, whose sufferings you have had the
privilege of alleviating in so merciful a manner. I am, however,
anxious of marking my feelings in a manner which I trust will be
agreeable to you, and therefore, send you with this letter a
brooch, the form and emblems of which commemorate your great and
blessed work, and which I hope you will wear as a mark of the
high approbation of your Sovereign!

'It will be a very great satisfaction to me,' Her Majesty added,
'to make the acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example
to our sex.'

The brooch, which was designed by the Prince Consort, bore a St .
George's cross in red enamel, and the Royal cipher surmounted by
diamonds. The whole was encircled by the inscription 'Blessed are
the Merciful'.


THE name of Florence Nightingale lives in the memory of the world
by virtue of the lurid and heroic adventure of the Crimea. Had
she died--as she nearly did--upon her return to England, her
reputation would hardly have been different; her legend would
have come down to us almost as we know it today--that gentle
vision of female virtue which first took shape before the adoring
eyes of the sick soldiers at Scutari. Yet, as a matter of fact,
she lived for more than half a century after the Crimean War; and
during the greater part of that long period, all the energy and
all the devotion of her extraordinary nature were working at
their highest pitch. What she accomplished in those years of
unknown labour could, indeed, hardly have been more glorious than
her Crimean triumphs, but it was certainly more important. The
true history was far stranger even than the myth. In Miss
Nightingale's own eyes the adventure of the Crimea was a mere
incident-- scarcely more than a useful stepping-stone in her
career. It was the fulcrum with which she hoped to move the
world; but it was only the fulcrum. For more than a generation
she was to sit in secret, working her lever: and her real "life"
began at the very moment when, in the popular imagination, it had

She arrived in England in a shattered state of health. The
hardships and the ceaseless effort of the last two years had
undermined her nervous system; her heart was pronounced to be
affected; she suffered constantly from fainting-fits and terrible
attacks of utter physical prostration. The doctors declared that
one thing alone would save her-- a complete and prolonged rest.
But that was also the one thing with which she would have nothing
to do. She had never been in the habit of resting; why should she
begin now? Now, when her opportunity had come at last; now, when
the iron was hot, and it was time to strike? No; she had work to
do; and, come what might, she would do it. The doctors protested
in vain; in vain her family lamented and entreated; in vain her
friends pointed out to her the madness of such a course. Madness?
Mad--possessed--perhaps she was. A demoniac frenzy had seized
upon her. As she lay upon her sofa, gasping, she devoured blue-
books, dictated letters, and, in the intervals of her
palpitations, cracked her febrile jokes. For months at a stretch
she never left her bed. For years she was in daily expectation of
death. But she would not rest. At this rate, the doctors assured
her, even if she did not die, she would, become an invalid for
life. She could not help that; there was the work to be done;
and, as for rest, very likely she might rest ... when she had
done it.

Wherever she went, in London or in the country, in the hills of
Derbyshire, or among the rhododendrons at Embley, she was haunted
by a ghost. It was the spectre of Scutari-- the hideous vision of
the organisation of a military hospital. She would lay that
phantom, or she would perish. The whole system of the Army
Medical Department, the education of the Medical Officer, the
regulations of hospital procedure ... REST? How could she rest
while these things were as they were, while, if the like
necessity were to arise again, the like results would follow?
And, even in peace and at home, what was the sanitary condition
of the Army? The mortality in the barracks was, she found, nearly
double the mortality in civil life. 'You might as well take 1,100
men every year out upon Salisbury Plain and shoot them,' she
said. After inspecting the hospitals at Chatham, she smiled
grimly. 'Yes, this is one more symptom of the system which, in
the Crimea, put to death 16,000 men.' Scutari had given her
knowledge; and it had given her power too: her enormous
reputation was at her back-- an incalculable force. Other work,
other duties, might lie before her; but the most urgent, the most
obvious of all, was to look to the health of the Army.

One of her very first steps was to take advantage of the
invitation which Queen Victoria had sent her to the Crimea,
together with the commemorative brooch. Within a few weeks of her
return she visited Balmoral, and had several interviews with both
the Queen and the Prince, Consort. 'She put before us,' wrote the
Prince in his diary, 'all the defects of our present military
hospital system, and the reforms that are needed.' She related
'the whole story' of her experiences in the East; and, in
addition, she managed to have some long and confidential talks
with His Royal Highness on metaphysics and religion. The
impression which she created was excellent. 'Sie gefallt uns
sehr,' noted the Prince, 'ist sehr bescheiden.' Her Majesty's
comment was different--'Such a HEAD! I wish we had her at the War

But Miss Nightingale was not at the War Office, and for a very
simple reason: she was a woman. Lord Panmure, however, was
(though indeed the reason for that was not quite so simple); and
it was upon Lord Panmure that the issue of Miss Nightingale's
efforts for reform must primarily depend. That burly Scottish
nobleman had not, in spite of his most earnest endeavours, had a
very easy time of it as Secretary of State for War. He had come
into office in the middle of the SebastopolCampaign, and had felt
himself very well fitted for the position, since he had acquired
in former days an inside knowledge of the Army--as a Captain of
Hussars. It was this inside knowledge which had enabled him to
inform Miss Nightingale with such authority that 'the British
soldier is not a remitting animal'. And perhaps it was this same
consciousness of a command of his subject which had impelled him
to write a dispatch to Lord Raglan, blandly informing the
Commander-in-Chief in the Field just how he was neglecting his
duties, and pointing out to him that if he would only try he
really might do a little better next time.

Lord Raglan's reply, calculated as it was to make its recipient
sink into the earth, did not quite have that effect upon Lord
Panmure, who, whatever might have been his faults, had never been
accused of being supersensitive. However, he allowed the matter
to drop; and a little later Lord Raglan died--worn out, some
people said, by work and anxiety. He was succeeded by an
excellent red-nosed old gentleman, General Simpson, whom nobody
has ever heard of, and who took Sebastopol. But Lord Panmure's
relations with him were hardly more satisfactory than his
relations with Lord Raglan; for, while Lord Raglan had been too
independent, poor General Simpson erred in the opposite
direction, perpetually asked advice, suffered from lumbago,
doubted (his nose growingredder and redder daily) whether he was
fit for his post, and, by alternate mails, sent in and withdrew
his resignation. Then, too, both the General and the Minister
suffered acutely from that distressingly useful new invention,
the electric telegraph. On one occasion General Simpson felt
obliged actually to expostulate. 'I think, my Lord,' he wrote,
'that some telegraphic messages reach us that cannot be sent
under due authority, and are perhaps unknown to you, although
under the protection of your Lordship's name.

For instance, I was called up last night, a dragoon having come
express with a telegraphic message in these words, "Lord Panmure
to General Simpson--Captain Jarvis has been bitten by a
centipede. How is he now?"' General Simpson might have put up
with this, though to be sure it did seem 'rather too trifling an
affair to call for a dragoon to ride a couple of miles in the
dark that he may knock up the Commander of the Army out of the
very small allowance of sleep permitted; but what was really more
than he could bear was to find 'upon sending in the morning
another mounted dragoon to inquire after Captain Jarvis, four
miles off, that he never has been bitten at all, but has had a
boil, from which he is fast recovering'. But Lord Panmure had
troubles of his own. His favourite nephew, Captain Dowbiggin, was
at the front, and to one of his telegrams to the Commander-in-
Chief the Minister had taken occasion to append the following
carefully qualified sentence--'I recommend Dowbiggin to your
notice, should you have a vacancy, and if he is fit'.
Unfortunately, in those early days, it was left to the discretion
of the telegraphist to compress the messages which passed through
his hands; so that the result was that Lord Panmure's delicate
appeal reached its destination in the laconic form of 'Look after
Dowb'. The Headquarters Staff were at first extremely puzzled;
they were at last extremely amused. The story spread; and 'Look
after Dowb' remained for many years the familiar formula for
describing official hints in favour of deserving nephews.

And now that all this was over, now that Sebastopol had been,
somehow or another, taken; now that peace was, somehow or
another, made; now that the troubles of office might surely be
expected to be at an end at last-- here was Miss Nightingale
breaking in upon the scene with her talk about the state of the
hospitals and the necessity for sanitary reform. It was most
irksome; and Lord Panmure almost began to wish that he was
engaged upon some more congenial occupation--discussing, perhaps,
the constitution of the Free Church of Scotland--a question in
which he was profoundly interested. But no; duty was paramount;
and he set himself, with a sigh of resignation, to the task of
doing as little of it as he possibly could.

'The Bison' his friends called him; and the name fitted both his
physical demeanour and his habit of mind. That large low head
seemed to have been created for butting rather than for anything
else. There he stood, four-square and menacing in the doorway of
reform; and it remained to be seen whether, the bulky mass, upon
whose solid hide even the barbed arrows of Lord Raglan's scorn
had made no mark, would prove amenable to the pressure of Miss
Nightingale. Nor was he alone in the doorway. There loomed behind
him the whole phalanx of professional conservatism, the stubborn
supporters of the out-of-date, the worshippers and the victims of
War Office routine. Among these it was only natural that Dr.
Andrew Smith, the head of the Army Medical Department, should
have been pre-eminent--Dr. Andrew Smith, who had assured Miss
Nightingale before she left England that 'nothing was wanted at
Scutari'. Such were her opponents; but she too was not without
allies. She had gained the ear of Royalty--which was something;
at any moment that she pleased she could gain the ear of the
public--which was a great deal. She had a host of admirers and
friends; and--to say nothing of her personal qualities--her
knowledge, her tenacity, her tact--she possessed, too, one
advantage which then, far more even than now, carried an immense
weight-- she belonged to the highest circle of society. She moved
naturally among Peers and Cabinet Ministers--she was one of their
own set; and in those days their set was a very narrow one. What
kind of attention would such persons have paid to some middle-
class woman with whom they were not acquainted, who possessed
great experience of Army nursing and had decided views upon
hospital reform? They would have politely ignored her; but it was
impossible to ignore Flo Nightingale. When she spoke, they were
obliged to listen; and, when they had once begun to do that--
what might not follow? She knew her power, and she used it. She
supported her weightiest minutes with familiar witty little
notes. The Bison began to look grave. It might be difficult--it
might be damned difficult--to put down one's head against the
white hand of a lady...

Of Miss Nightingale's friends, the most important was Sidney
Herbert. He was a man upon whom the good fairies seemed to have
showered, as he lay in his cradle, all their most enviable goods.
Well born, handsome, rich, the master of Wilton--one of those
great country-houses, clothed with the glamour of a historic
past, which are the peculiar glory of England--he possessed--
besides all these advantages: so charming, so lively, so gentle a
disposition that no one who had once come near him could ever be
his enemy.

He was, in fact, a man of whom it was difficult not to say that
he was a perfect English gentleman. For his virtues were equal
even to his good fortune. He was religious, deeply religious. 'I
am more and more convinced every day,' he wrote, when he had been
for some years a Cabinet Minister, 'that in politics, as in
everything else, nothing can be right which is not in accordance
with the spirit of the Gospel.' No one was more unselfish; he was
charitable and benevolent to a remarkable degree; and he devoted
the whole of his life, with an unwavering conscientiousness, to
the public service. With such a character, with such
opportunities, what high hopes must have danced before him, what
radiant visions of accomplished duties, of ever-increasing
usefulness, of beneficent power, of the consciousness of
disinterested success! Some of those hopes and visions were,
indeed, realised; but, in the end, the career of Sidney Herbert
seemed to show that, with all their generosity, there was some
gift or other-- what was it?--some essential gift--which the good
fairies had withheld, and that even the qualities of a perfect
English gentleman may be no safeguard against anguish,
humiliation, and defeat.

That career would certainly have been very different if he had
never known Miss Nightingale. The alliance between them which had
begun with her appointment to Scutari, which had grown closer and
closer while the war lasted, developed, after her return, into
one of the most extraordinary friendships. It was the friendship
of a man and a woman intimately bound together by their devotion
to a public cause; mutual affection, of course, played a part in
it, but it was an incidental part; the whole soul of the
relationship was a community of work. Perhaps out of England such
an intimacy could hardly have existed--an intimacy so utterly
untinctured not only by passion itself but by the suspicion of
it. For years Sidney Herbert saw Miss Nightingale almost daily,
for long hours together, corresponding with her incessantly when
they were apart; and the tongue of scandal was silent; and one of
the most devoted of her admirers was his wife. But what made the
connection still more remarkable was the way in which the parts
that were played in it were divided between the two. The man who
acts, decides, and achieves; the woman who encourages, applauds,
and--from a distance--inspires: the combination is common enough;
but Miss Nightingale was neither an Aspasia nor an Egeria. In her
case it is almost true to say that the roles were reversed; the
qualities of pliancy and sympathy fell to the man, those of
command and initiative to the woman.

There was one thing only which Miss Nightingale lacked in her
equipment for public life; she had not-- she never could have--
the public power and authority which belonged to the successful
politician. That power and authority Sidney Herbert possessed;
that fact was obvious, and the conclusions no less so: it was
through the man that the woman must work her will. She took hold
of him, taught him, shaped him, absorbed him, dominated him
through and through. He did not resist--he did not wish to
resist; his natural inclination lay along the same path as hers;
only that terrific personality swept him forward at her own
fierce pace and with her own relentless stride. Swept him--where
to? Ah! Why had he ever known Miss Nightingale? If Lord Panmure
was a bison, Sidney Herbert, no doubt, was a stag-- a comely,
gallant creature springing through the forest; but the forest is
a dangerous place. One has the image of those wide eyes
fascinated suddenly by something feline, something strong; there
is a pause; and then the tigress has her claws in the quivering
haunches; and then--!

Besides Sidney Herbert, she had other friends who, in a more
restricted sphere, were hardly less essential to her. If, in her
condition of bodily collapse, she were to accomplish what she was
determined that she should accomplish, the attentions and the
services of others would be absolutely indispensable. Helpers and
servers she must have; and accordingly there was soon formed
about her a little group of devoted disciples upon whose
affections and energies she could implicitly rely. Devoted,
indeed, these disciples were, in no ordinary sense of the term;
for certainly she was no light taskmistress, and he who set out
to be of use to Miss Nightingale was apt to find, before he had
gone very far, that he was in truth being made use of in good
earnest to the very limit of his endurance and his capacity.
Perhaps, even beyond those limits; why not? Was she asking of
others more than she was giving herself? Let them look at her
lying there pale and breathless on the couch; could it be said
that she spared herself? Why, then, should she spare others? And
it was not for her own sake that she made these claims. For her
own sake, indeed! No! They all knew it! it was for the sake of
the work. And so the little band, bound body and soul in that
strange servitude, laboured on ungrudgingly.

Among the most faithful was her 'Aunt Mai', her father's sister,
who from the earliest days had stood beside her, who had helped
her to escape from the thraldom of family life, who had been with
her at Scutari, and who now acted almost the part of a mother to
her, watching over her with infinite care in all the movements
and uncertainties which her state of health involved. Another
constant attendant was her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, whom
she found particularly valuable in parliamentary affairs. Arthur
Clough, the poet, also a connection by marriage, she used in
other ways. Ever since he had lost his faith at the time of the
Oxford Movement, Clough had passed his life in a condition of
considerable uneasiness, which was increased rather than
diminished by the practice of poetry. Unable to decide upon the
purpose of an existence whose savour had fled together with his
belief in the Resurrection, his spirits lowered still further by
ill-health, and his income not all that it should be, he had
determined to seek the solution of his difficulties in the United
States of America. But, even there, the solution was not
forthcoming; and, when, a little later, he was offered a post in
a government department at home, he accepted it, came to live in
London, and immediately fell under the influence of Miss
Nightingale. Though the purpose of existence might be still
uncertain and its nature still unsavoury, here, at any rate,
under the eye of this inspired woman, was something real,
something earnest: his only doubt was-- could he be of any use?
Certainly he could. There were a great number of miscellaneous
little jobs which there was nobody handy to do. For instance,
when Miss Nightingale was travelling, there were the railway-
tickets to be taken; and there were proof-sheets to be corrected;
and then there were parcels to be done up in brown paper, and
carried to the post. Certainly he could be useful. And so, upon
such occupations as these, Arthur Clough was set to work. 'This
that I see, is not all,' he comforted himself by reflecting, 'and
this that I do is but little; nevertheless it is good, though
there is better than it.'As time went on, her 'Cabinet', as she
called it, grew larger. Officials with whom her work brought her
into touch and who sympathised with her objects, were pressed
into her service; and old friends of the Crimean days gathered
around her when they returned to England. Among these the most
indefatigable was Dr. Sutherland, a sanitary expert, who for more
than thirty years acted as her confidential private secretary,
and surrendered to her purposes literally the whole of his life.
Thus sustained and assisted, thus slaved for and adored, she
prepared to beard the Bison.

Two facts soon emerged, and all that followed turned upon them.
It became clear, in the first place, that that imposing mass was
not immovable, and, in the second, that its movement, when it did
move, would be exceeding slow. The Bison was no match for the
Lady. It was in vain that he put down his head and planted his
feet in the earth; he could not withstand her; the white hand
forced him back. But the process was an extraordinarily gradual
one. Dr. Andrew Smith and all his War Office phalanx stood
behind, blocking the way; the poor Bison groaned inwardly, and
cast a wistful eye towards the happy pastures of the Free Church
of Scotland; then slowly, with infinite reluctance, step by step,
he retreated, disputing every inch of the ground.

The first great measure, which, supported as it was by the Queen,
the Cabinet, and the united opinion of the country, it was
impossible to resist, was the appointment of a Royal Commission
to report upon the health of the Army. The question of the
composition of the Commission then immediately arose; and it was
over this matter that the first hand-to-hand encounter between
Lord Panmure and Miss Nightingale took place. They met, and Miss
Nightingale was victorious; Sidney Herbert was appointed
Chairman; and, in the end, the only member of the Commission
opposed to her views was Dr. Andrew Smith. During the interview,
Miss Nightingale made an important discovery: she found that 'the
Bison was bullyable'--the hide was the hide of a Mexican buffalo,
but the spirit was the spirit of an Alderney calf. And there was
one thing above all others which the huge creature dreaded--an
appeal to public opinion. The faintest hint of such a terrible
eventuality made his heart dissolve within him; he would agree to
anything he would cut short his grouse-shooting--he would make a
speech in the House of Lords, he would even overrule Dr. Andrew
Smith--rather than that. Miss Nightingale held the fearful threat
in reserve--she would speak out what she knew; she would publish
the truth to the whole world, and let the whole world judge
between them. With supreme skill, she kept this sword of Damocles

poised above the Bison's head, and more than once she was
actually on the point of really dropping it-- for his
recalcitrancy grew and grew.

The personnel of the Commission once determined upon, there was a
struggle, which lasted for six months, over the nature of its
powersWas it to be an efficient body, armed with the right of
full inquiry and wide examination, or was it to be a polite
official contrivance for exonerating Dr. Andrew Smith? The War
Office phalanx closed its ranks, and fought tooth and nail; but
it was defeated: the Bison was bullyable. 'Three months from this
day,' Miss Nightingale had written at last, 'I publish my
experience of the Crimean Campaign, and my suggestions for
improvement, unless there has been a fair and tangible pledge by
that time for reform.' Who could face that?

And, if the need came, she meant to be as good as her word. For
she had now determined, whatever might be the fate of the
Commission, to draw up her own report upon the questions at
issue. The labour involved was enormous; her health was almost
desperate; but she did not flinch, and after six months of
incredible industry she had put together and written with her own
hand her Notes affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital
Administration of the British Army. This extraordinary
composition, filling more than 800 closely printed pages, laying
down vast principles of far-reaching reform, discussing the
minutest details of a multitude of controversial subjects,
containing an enormous mass of information of the most varied
kinds--military, statistical, sanitary, architectural--was never
given to the public, for the need never came; but it formed the
basis of the Report of the Royal Commission; and it remains to
this day the leading authority on the medical administration of

Before it had been completed, the struggle over the powers of the
Commission had been brought to a victorious close. Lord Panmure
had given way once more; he had immediately hurried to the Queen
to obtain her consent; and only then, when Her Majesty's initials
had been irrevocably affixed to the fatal document, did he dare
to tell Dr. Andrew Smith what he had done. The Commission met,
and another immense load fell upon Miss Nightingale's shoulders.
Today she would, of course, have been one of the Commission
herself; but at that time the idea of a woman appearing in such a
capacity was unheard of; and no one even suggested the
possibility of Miss Nightingale's doing so. The result was that
she was obliged to remain behind the scenes throughout, to coach
Sidney Herbert in private at every important juncture, and to
convey to him and to her other friends upon the Commission the
vast funds of her expert knowledge--so essential in the
examination of witnesses--by means of innumerable consultations,
letters, and memoranda. It was even doubtful whether the
proprieties would admit of her giving evidence; and at last, as a
compromise, her modesty only allowed her to do so in the form of
written answers to written questions. At length, the grand affair
was finished. The Commission's Report, embodying almost word for
word the suggestions of Miss Nightingale, was drawn up by Sidney
Herbert. Only one question remained to be answered--would
anything, after all, be done? Or would the Royal Commission, like
so many other Royal Commissions before and since, turn out to
have achieved nothing but the concoction of a very fat bluebook
on a very high shelf?

And so the last and the deadliest struggle with the Bison began.
Six months had been spent in coercing him into granting the
Commission effective powers; six more months were occupied by the
work of the Commission; and now yet another six were to pass in
extorting from him the means whereby the recommendations of the
Commission might be actually carried out. But, in the end, the
thing was done. Miss Nightingale seemed, indeed, during these
months, to be upon the very brink of death. Accompanied by the
faithful Aunt Mai, she moved from place to place--to Hampstead,
to Highgate, to Derbyshire, to Malvern--in what appeared to be a
last desperate effort to find health somewhere; but she carried
that with her which made health impossible. Her desire for work
could now scarcely be distinguished from mania. At one moment she
was writing a 'last letter' to Sidney Herbert; at the next she
was offering to go out to India to nurse the sufferers in the
Mutiny. When Dr. Sutherland wrote, imploring her to take a
holiday, she raved. Rest!--'I am lying without my head, without
my claws, and you all peck at me. It is de rigueur, d'obligation,
like the saying something to one's hat, when one goes into
church, to say to me all that has been said to me 110 times a day
during the last three months. It is the obbligato on the violin,
and the twelve violins all practise it together, like the clocks
striking twelve o'clock at night all over London, till I say like
Xavier de Maistre, Assez, je sais, je ne le sais que trop. I am
not a penitent; but you are like the R.C. confessor, who says
what is de rigueur. ...'

Her wits began to turn, and there was no holding her. She worked
like a slave in a mine. She began to believe, as she had begun to
believe at Scutari, that none of her fellow-workers had their
hearts in the business; if they had, why did they not work as she
did? She could only see slackness and stupidity around her. Dr.
Sutherland, of course, was grotesquely muddle-headed; and Arthur
Clough incurably lazy. Even Sidney Herbert ... oh yes, he had
simplicity and candour and quickness of perception, no doubt; but
he was an eclectic; and what could one hope for from a man who
went away to fish in Ireland just when the Bison most needed
bullying? As for the Bison himself, he had fled to Scotland where
he remained buried for many months. The fate of the vital
recommendation in the Commission's Report--the appointment of
four Sub-Commissions charged with the duty of determining upon
the details of the proposed reforms and of putting them into
execution--still hung in the balance. The Bison consented to
everything; and then, on a flying visit to London, withdrew his
consent and hastily returned to Scotland. Then for many weeks all
business was suspended; he had gout--gout in the hands-- so that
he could not write. 'His gout was always handy,' remarked Miss
Nightingale. But eventually it was clear even to the Bison that
the game was up, and the inevitable surrender came.

There was, however, one point in which he triumphed over Miss
Nightingale: the building of Netley Hospital had been begun under
his orders, before her return to England. Soon after her arrival
she examined the plans, and found that they reproduced all the
worst faults of an out-of-date and mischievous system of hospital
construction. She therefore urged that the matter should be
reconsidered, and in the meantime the building stopped. But the
Bison was obdurate; it would be very expensive, and in any case
it was too late. Unable to make any impression on him, and
convinced of the extreme importance of the question, she
determined to appeal to a higher authority. Lord Palmerston was
Prime Minister; she had known him from her childhood; he was a
near neighbour of her father's in the New Forest. She went down
to the New Forest, armed with the plan of the proposed hospital
and all the relevant information, stayed the night at Lord
Palmerston's house, and convinced him of the necessity of
rebuilding Netley. 'It seems to me,' Lord Palmerston wrote to
Lord Panmure, 'that at Netley all consideration of what would
best tend to the comfort and recovery of the patients has been
sacrificed to the vanity of the architect, whose sole object has
been to make a building which should cut a dash when looked at
from the Southampton river... Pray, therefore, stop all further
progress in the work until the matter can be duly considered.'
But the Bison was not to be moved by one peremptory letter, even
if it was from the Prime Minister. He put forth all his powers of
procrastination, Lord Palmerston lost interest in the subject,
and so the chief military hospital in England was triumphantly
completed on insanitary principles, with unventilated rooms, and
with all the patients' windows facing northeast.

But now the time had come when the Bison was to trouble and to be
troubled no more. A vote in the House of Commons brought about
the fall of Lord Palmerston's Government, and, Lord Panmure found
himself at liberty to devote the rest of his life to the Free
Church of Scotland. After a brief interval, Sidney Herbert became
Secretary of State for War. Great was the jubilation in the
Nightingale Cabinet: the day of achievement had dawned at last.
The next two and a half years (1859-61) saw the introduction of
the whole system of reforms for which Miss Nightingale had been
struggling so fiercely--reforms which make Sidney Herbert's
tenure of power at the War Office an important epoch in the
history of the British Army. The four Sub-Commissions, firmly
established under the immediate control of the Minister, and
urged forward by the relentless perseverance of Miss Nightingale,
set to work with a will. The barracks and the hospitals were
remodelled; they were properly ventilated and warmed and lighted
for the first time; they were given a water supply which actually
supplied water, and kitchens where, strange to say, it was
possible to cook. Then the great question of the Purveyor--that
portentous functionary whose powers and whose lack of powers had
weighed like a nightmare upon Scutari--was taken in hand, and new
regulations were laid down, accurately defining his
responsibilities and his duties. One Sub-Commission reorganised
the medical statistics of the Army; another established in spite
of the last convulsive efforts of the Department an Army Medical
School. Finally, the Army Medical Department itself was
completely reorganised; an administrative code was drawn up; and
the great and novel principle was established that it was as much
a part of the duty of the authorities to look after the soldier's
health as to look after his sickness. Besides this, it was at
last officially admitted that he had a moral and intellectual
side. Coffee-rooms and reading-rooms, gymnasiums and workshops
were instituted. A new era did in truth appear to have begun.
Already by 1861 the mortality in the Army had decreased by one-
half since the days of the Crimea. It was no wonder that even
vaster possibilities began now to open out before Miss
Nightingale. One thing was still needed to complete and to assure
her triumphs. The Army Medical Department was indeed reorganised;
but the great central machine was still untouched. The War Office
itself--! If she could remould that nearer to her heart's desire-
-there indeed would be a victory! And until that final act was
accomplished, how could she be certain that all the rest of her
achievements might not, by some capricious turn of Fortune's
wheel--a change of Ministry, perhaps, replacing Sidney Herbert by
some puppet of the permanent official gang-- be swept to limbo in
a moment?

Meanwhile, still ravenous for yet more and more work, her
activities had branched out into new directions. The Army in
India claimed her attention. A Sanitary Commission, appointed at
her suggestion, and working under her auspices, did for our
troops there what the four Sub-Commissions were doing for those
at home. At the same time, these very years which saw her laying
the foundations of the whole modern system of medical work in the
Army, saw her also beginning to bring her knowledge, her
influence, and her activity into the service of the country at
large. Her "Notes on Hospitals" (1859) revolutionised the theory
of hospital construction and hospital management. She was
immediately recognised as the leading expert upon all the
questions involved; her advice flowed unceasingly and in all
directions, so that there is no great hospital today which does
not bear upon it the impress of her mind. Nor was this all. With
the opening of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St.
Thomas's Hospital (1860), she became the founder of modern

But a terrible crisis was now fast approaching. Sidney Herbert
had consented to undertake the root and branch reform of the War
Office. He had sallied forth into that tropical jungle of
festooned obstructiveness, of intertwisted irresponsibilities, of
crouching prejudices, of abuses grown stiff and rigid with
antiquity, which for so many years to come was destined to lure
reforming Ministers to their doom. 'The War Office,' said Miss
Nightingale, 'is a very slow office, an enormously expensive
office, and one in which the Minister's intentions can be
entirely negated by all his sub-departments, and those of each of
the sub-departments by every other.' It was true; and of course,
at the, first rumour of a change, the old phalanx of reaction was
bristling with its accustomed spears. At its head stood no longer
Dr. Andrew Smith, who, some time since, had followed the Bison
into outer darkness, but a yet more formidable figure, the
Permanent Under-Secretary himself, Sir Benjamin Hawes-- Ben Hawes
the Nightingale Cabinet irreverently dubbed him "a man remarkable
even among civil servants for adroitness in baffling inconvenient
inquiries, resource in raising false issues, and, in, short, a
consummate command of all the arts of officially sticking in the

'Our scheme will probably result in Ben Hawes's resignation,'
Miss Nightingale said; 'and that is another of its advantages.'
Ben Hawes himself, however, did not quite see it in that light.
He set himself to resist the wishes of the Minister by every
means in his power. The struggle was long, and desperate; and, as
it proceeded, it gradually became evident to Miss Nightingale
that something was the matter with Sidney Herbert. What was it?
His health, never very strong, was, he said, in danger of
collapsing under the strain of his work. But, after all, what is
illness, when there is a War Office to be reorganised? Then he
began to talk of retiring altogether from public life. The
doctors were consulted, and declared that, above all things, what
was necessary was rest. Rest! She grew seriously alarmed. Was it
possible that, at the last moment, the crowning wreath of victory
was to be snatched from her grasp? She was not to be put aside by
doctors; they were talking nonsense; the necessary thing was not
rest, but the reform of the War Office; and, besides, she knew
very well from her own case what one could do even when one was
on the point of death.

She expostulated vehemently, passionately; the goal was so near,
so very near; he could not turn back now! At any rate, he could
not resist Miss Nightingale. A compromise was arranged. Very
reluctantly, he exchanged the turmoil of the House of Commons for
the dignity of the House of Lords, and he remained at the War
Office. She was delighted. 'One fight more, the best and the
last,' she said.

For several more months the fight did indeed go on. But the
strain upon him was greater even than she perhaps could realise.
Besides the intestine war in his office, he had to face a
constant battle in the Cabinet with Mr. Gladstone--a more
redoubtable antagonist even than Ben Hawes--over the estimates.
His health grew worse and worse. He was attacked by faintingfits;
and there were some days when he could only just keep himself
going by gulps of brandy. Miss Nightingale spurred him forward
with her encouragements and her admonitions, her zeal and her
example. But at last his spirit began to sink as well as his
body. He could no longer hope; he could no longer desire; it was
useless, all useless; it was utterly impossible. He had failed.
The dreadful moment came when the truth was forced upon him: he
would never be able to reform the War Office. But a yet more
dreadful moment lay behind; he must go to Miss Nightingale and
tell her that he was a failure, a beaten man.

'Blessed are the merciful!' What strange ironic prescience had
led Prince Albert, in the simplicity of his heart, to choose that
motto for the Crimean brooch? The words hold a double lesson;
and, alas! when she brought herself to realise at length what was
indeed the fact and what there was no helping, it was not in
mercy that she turned upon her old friend.

'Beaten!' she exclaimed. 'Can't you see that you've simply thrown
away the game? And with all the winning cards in your hands! And
so noble a game! Sidney Herbert beaten! And beaten by Ben Hawes!
It is a worse disgrace...' her full rage burst out at last, '...a
worse disgrace than the hospitals at Scutari.'

He dragged himself away from her, dragged himself to Spa, hoping
vainly for a return to health, and then, despairing, back again
to England, to Wilton, to the majestic house standing there
resplendent in the summer sunshine, among the great cedars which
had lent their shade to Sir Philip Sidney, and all those
familiar, darling haunts of beauty which he loved, each one of
them, 'as if they were persons'; and at, Wilton he died. After
having received the Eucharist, he had become perfectly calm;
then, almost unconscious, his lips were seen to be moving. Those
about him bent down. 'Poor Florence! Poor Florence!' they just
caught. '...Our joint work ... unfinished ... tried to do ...'
and they could hear no more.

When the onward rush of a powerful spirit sweeps a weaker one to
its destruction, the commonplaces of the moral judgment are
better left unmade. If Miss Nightingale had been less ruthless,
Sidney Herbert would not have perished; but then, she would not
have been Miss Nightingale. The force that created was the force
that destroyed. It was her Demon that was responsible. When the
fatal news reached her, she was overcome by agony. In the
revulsion of her feelings, she made a worship of the dead man's
memory; and the facile instrument which had broken in her hand
she spoke of forever after as her 'Master'. Then, almost at the
same moment, another blow fell on her. Arthur Clough, worn out by
labours very different from those of Sidney Herbert, died too:
never more would he tie up her parcels. And yet a thirddisaster
followed. The faithful Aunt Mai did not, to be sure, die; no, she
did something almost worse: she left Miss Nightingale. She was
growing old, and she felt that she had closer and more imperative
duties with her own family. Her niece could hardly forgive her.
She poured out, in one of her enormous letters, a passionate
diatribe upon the faithlessness, the lack of sympathy, the
stupidity, the ineptitude of women. Her doctrines had taken no
hold among them; she had never known one who had appris a
apprendre; she could not even get a woman secretary; 'they don't
know the names of the Cabinet Ministers--they don't know which of
the Churches has Bishops and which not'. As for the spirit of
self-sacrifice, well--Sidney Herbert and Arthur Clough were men,
and they indeed had shown their devotion; but women--! She would
mount three widow's caps 'for a sign'. The first two would be for
Clough and for her Master; but the third--'the biggest widow's
cap of all'--would be for Aunt Mai. She did well to be angry; she
was deserted in her hour of need; and after all, could she be
sure that even the male sex was so impeccable? There was Dr.
Sutherland, bungling as usual. Perhaps even he intended to go off
one of these days, too? She gave him a look, and he shivered in
his shoes. No!--she grinned sardonically; she would always have
Dr. Sutherland. And then she reflected that there was one thing
more that she would always have-- her work.


SIDNEY HERBERT'S death finally put an end to Miss Nightingale's
dream of a reformed War Office. For a moment, indeed, in the
first agony of her disappointment, she had wildly clutched at a
straw; she had written to M. Gladstone to beg him to take up the
burden of Sidney Herbert's work. And Mr. Gladstone had replied
with a sympathetic account of the funeral.

Succeeding Secretaries of State managed between them to undo a
good deal of what had been accomplished, but they could not undo
it all; and for ten years more (1862-72) Miss Nightingale
remained a potent influence at the War Office. After that, her
direct connection with the Army came to an end, and her energies
began to turn more and more completely towards more general
objects. Her work upon hospital reform assumed enormous
proportions; she was able to improve the conditions in
infirmaries and workhouses; and one of her most remarkable papers
forestalls the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission of
1909. Her training, school for nurses, with all that it involved
in initiative, control, responsibillity, and combat, would have
been enough in itself to have absorbed the whole efforts of at
least two lives of ordinary vigour. And at the same time her work
in connection with India, which had begun with the Sanitary
Commission on the Indian Army, spread and ramified in a multitude
of directions. Her tentacles reached the India Office and
succeeded in establishing a hold even upon those slippery high
places. For many years it was de rigueur for the newly appointed
Viceroy, before he left England, to pay a visit to Miss

After much hesitation, she had settled down in a small house in
South Street, where she remained for the rest of her life. That
life was a very long one; the dying woman reached her ninety-
first year. Her ill health gradually diminished; the crises of
extreme danger became less frequent, and at last altogether
ceased; she remained an invalid, but an invalid of a curious
character--an invalid who was too weak to walk downstairs and who
worked far harder than most Cabinet Ministers. Her illness,
whatever it may have been, was certainly not inconvenient. It
involved seclusion; and an extraordinary, an unparalleled
seclusion was, it might almost have been said, the mainspring of
Miss Nightingale's life. Lying on her sofa in the little upper
room in South Street, she combined the intense vitality of a
dominating woman of the world with the mysterious and romantic
quality of a myth. She was a legend in her lifetime, and she knew
it. She tasted the joys of power, like those Eastern Emperors
whose autocratic rule was based upon invisibility, with the
mingled satisfactions of obscurity and fame.

And she found the machinery of illness hardly less effective as a
barrier against the eyes of men than the ceremonial of a palace.
Great statesmen and renowned generals were obliged to beg for
audiences; admiring princesses from foreign countries found that
they must see her at her own time, or not at all; and the
ordinary mortal had no hope of ever getting beyond the downstairs
sitting-room and Dr. Sutherland. For that indefatigable disciple
did, indeed, never desert her. He might be impatient, he might be
restless, but he remained. His 'incurable looseness of thought',
for so she termed it, continued at her service to the end. Once,
it is true, he had actually ventured to take a holiday; but he
was recalled, and he did not repeat the experiment. He was wanted
downstairs. There he sat, transacting business answering
correspondence, interviewing callers, and exchanging innumerable
notes with the unseen power above. Sometimes word came down that
Miss Nightingale was just well enough to see one of her visitors.
The fortunate man was led up, was ushered, trembling, into the
shaded chamber, and, of course, could never afterwards forget the
interview. Very rarely, indeed, once or twice a year, perhaps,
but nobody could be quite certain, in deadly secrecy, Miss
Nightingale went out for a drive in the Park. Unrecognised, the
living legend flitted for a moment before the common gaze. And
the precaution was necessary; for there were times when, at some
public function, the rumour of her presence was spread abroad;
and ladies, mistaken by the crowd for Miss Nightingale, were
followed, pressed upon, vehemently supplicated 'Let me touch your
shawl'; 'Let me stroke your arm'; such was the strange adoration
in the hearts of the people. That vast reserve of force lay there
behind her; she could use it, if she could. But she preferred
never to use it. On occasions, she might hint or threaten, she
might balance the sword of Damocles over the head of the Bison;
she might, by a word, by a glance, remind some refractory
Minister, some unpersuadable Viceroy, sitting in audience with
her in the little upper room, that she was something more than a
mere sick woman, that she had only, so to speak, to go to the
window and wave her handkerchief, for ... dreadful things to
follow. But that was enough; they understood; the myth was there-
-obvious, portentous, impalpable; and so it remained to the last.

With statesmen and governors at her beck and call, with her hands
on a hundred strings, with mighty provinces at her feet, with
foreign governments agog for her counsel, building hospitals,
training nurses-- she still felt that she had not enough to do.
She sighed for more worlds to conquer--more, and yet more.

She looked about her--what was left? Of course! Philosophy! After
the world of action, the world of thought. Having set right the
health of the British Army, she would now do the same good
service for the religious convictions of mankind. She had long
noticed--with regret--the growing tendency towards free-thinking
among artisans. With regret, but not altogether with surprise,
the current teaching of Christianity was sadly to seek; nay,
Christianity itself was not without its defects. She would
rectify these errors. She would correct the mistakes of the
Churches; she would point out just where Christianity was wrong;
and she would explain to the artisans what the facts of the case
really were. Before her departure for the Crimea, she had begun
this work; and now, in the intervals of her other labours, she
completed it. Her 'Suggestions for Thought to the Searchers After

Truth Among the Artisans of England' (1860), unravels, in the
course of three portly volumes, the difficulties hitherto,
curiously enough, unsolved--connected with such matters as Belief
in God, the Plan of Creation, the Origin of Evil, the Future
Life, Necessity and Free Will, Law, and the Nature of Morality.

The Origin of Evil, in particular, held no perplexities for Miss
Nightingale. 'We cannot conceive,' she remarks, 'that Omnipotent
Righteousness would find satisfaction in solitary existence.'
This being, so, the only question remaining to be asked is: 'What
beings should we then conceive that God would create?' Now, He
cannot create perfect beings, 'since, essentially, perfection is
one'; if He did so, He would only be adding to Himself. Thus the
conclusion is obvious: He must create imperfect ones. Omnipotent
Righteousness, faced by the intolerable impasse of a solitary
existence, finds itself bound by the very nature of the cause, to
create the hospitals at Scutari. Whether this argument would have
satisfied the artisans was never discovered, for only a very few
copies of the book were printed for private circulation. One copy
was sent to Mr. Mill, who acknowledged it in an extremely polite
letter. He felt himself obliged, however, to confess that he had
not been altogether convinced by Miss Nightingale's proof of the
existence of God. Miss Nightingale was surprised and mortified;
she had thought better of Mr. Mill; for surely her proof of the
existence of God could hardly be improved upon. 'A law,' she had
pointed out, 'implies a lawgiver.' Now the Universe is full of
laws--the law of gravitation, the law of the excluded middle, and
many others; hence it follows that the Universe has a law-giver--
and what would Mr. Mill be satisfied with, if he was not
satisfied with that?

Perhaps Mr. Mill might have asked why the argument had not been
pushed to its logical conclusion. Clearly, if we are to trust the
analogy of human institutions, we must remember that laws are, as
a matter of fact, not dispensed by lawgivers, but passed by Act
of Parliament. Miss Nightingale, however, with all her experience
of public life, never stopped to consider the question whether
God might not be a Limited Monarchy.Yet her conception of God was
certainly not orthodox. She felt towards Him as she might have
felt towards a glorified sanitary engineer; and in some of her
speculations she seems hardly to distinguish between the Deity
and the Drains. As one turns over these singular pages, one has
the impression that Miss Nightingale has got the Almighty too
into her clutches, and that, if He is not careful, she will kill
Him with overwork.

Then, suddenly, in the very midst of the ramifying generalities
of her metaphysical disquisitions, there is an unexpected turn
and the reader is plunged all at once into something particular,
something personal, something impregnated with intense
experience-- a virulent invective upon the position of women in
the upper ranks of society. Forgetful alike of her high argument
and of the artisans, the bitter creature rails through a hundred
pages of close print at the falsities of family life, the
ineptitudes of marriage, the emptinesses of convention, in the
spirit of an Ibsen or a Samuel Butler. Her fierce pen, shaking
with intimate anger, depicts in biting sentences the fearful fate
of an unmarried girl in a wealthy household. It is a cri du
coeur; and then, as suddenly, she returns once more to instruct
the artisans upon the nature ofOmnipotent Righteousness.

Her mind was, indeed, better qualified to dissect the concrete
and distasteful fruits of actual life than to construct a
coherent system of abstract philosophy. In spite of her respect
for Law, she was never at home with a generalisation. Thus,
though the great achievement of her life lay in the immense
impetus which she gave to the scientific treatment of sickness, a
true comprehension of the scientific method itself was alien to
her spirit. Like most great men of action--perhaps like all--she
was simply an empiricist. She believed in what she saw, and she
acted accordingly; beyond that she would not go. She had found in
Scutari that fresh air and light played an effective part in the
prevention of the maladies with which she had to deal; and that
was enough for her; she would not inquire further; what were the
general principles underlying that fact--or even whether there
were any--she refused to consider. Years after the discoveries of
Pasteur and Lister, she laughed at what she called the 'germ-
fetish'. There was no such thing as 'infection'; she had never
seen it, therefore it did not exist. But she had seen the good
effects of fresh air; therefore, there could be no doubt about
them; and therefore, it was essential that the bedrooms of
patients should be well ventilated. Such was her doctrine; and in
those days of hermetically scaled windows it was a very valuable
one. But it was a purely empirical doctrine, and thus it led to
some unfortunate results. When, for instance, her influence in
India was at its height, she issued orders that all hospital
windows should be invariably kept open. The authorities, who knew
what an open window in the hot weather meant, protested, but in
vain; Miss Nightingale was incredulous. She knew nothing of the
hot weather, but she did know the value of fresh air--from
personal experience; the authorities were talking nonsense; and
the windows must be kept open all the year round. There was a
great outcry from all the doctors in India, but she was firm; and
for a moment it seemed possible that her terrible commands would
have to be put into execution. Lord Lawrence, however, was
Viceroy, and he was able to intimate to Miss Nightingale, with
sufficient authority, that himself had decided upon the question,
and that his decision must stand, even against her own. Upon that
she gave way, but reluctantly and quite unconvinced; she was only
puzzled by the unexpected weakness of Lord Lawrence. No doubt, if
she had lived today, and if her experience had lain, not among
cholera cases at Scutari, but among yellow-fever cases in Panama,
she would have declared fresh air a fetish, and would have
maintained to her dying day that the only really effective way of
dealing with disease was by the destruction of mosquitoes.

Yet her mind, so positive, so realistic, so ultra-practical, had
its singular revulsions, its mysterious moods of mysticism and of
doubt. At times, lying sleepless in the early hours, she fell
into long, strange, agonised meditations, and then, seizing a
pencil, she would commit to paper the confessions of her soul.
The morbid longings of her pre-Crimean days came over her once
more; she filled page after page with self-examination, self-
criticism, self-surrender. 'Oh Father,' she wrote, 'I submit, I
resign myself, I accept with all my heart, thisstretching out of
Thy hand to save me. ... 0h how vain it is, the vanity of
vanities, to live in men's thoughts instead of God's!'

She was lonely, she was miserable. 'Thou knowest that through all
these horrible twenty years, I have been supported by the belief
that I was working with Thee who would bring everyone, even our
poor nurses, to perfection'--and yet, after all, what was the
result? Had not even she been an unprofitable servant? One night,
waking suddenly, she saw, in the dim light of the night-lamp,
tenebrous shapes upon the wall. The past rushed back upon her.
'Am I she who once stood on that Crimean height?' she wildly
asked-- "The Lady with a lamp shall stand . . .The lamp shows me
only my utter shipwreck.'

She sought consolation in the writings of the Mystics and in a
correspondence with Mr. Jowett. For many years the Master of
Balliol acted as her spiritual adviser. He discussed with her in
a series of enormous letters the problems of religion and
philosophy; he criticised her writings on those subjects with the
tactful sympathy of a cleric who was also a man of the world; and
he even ventured to attempt at times to instil into her
rebellious nature some of his own peculiar suavity. 'I sometimes
think,' he told her, 'that you ought seriously to consider how
your work may be carried on, not with less energy, but in a
calmer spirit. I am not blaming the past... But I want the peace
of God to settle on the future.' He recommended her to spend her
time no longer in 'conflicts with Government offices', and to
take up some literary work. He urged her to 'work out her notion
of Divine Perfection', in a series of essays for Frazer's
Magazine. She did so; and the result was submitted to Mr. Froude,
who pronounced the second essay to be 'even more pregnant than
the first. I cannot tell,' he said, 'how sanitary, with
disordered intellects, the effects of such papers will be.'

Mr. Carlyle, indeed, used different language, and some remarks of
his about a lost lamb bleating on the mountains, having been
unfortunately repeated to Miss Nightingale, required all Mr.
Jowett's suavity to keep the peace. In a letter of fourteen
sheets, he turned her attention from this painful topic towards a
discussion of Quietism. 'I don't see why,' said the Master of
Balliol, 'active life might not become a sort of passive life
too.' And then, he added, 'I sometimes fancy there are
possibilities of human character much greater than have been
realised.' She found such sentiments helpful, underlining them in
blue pencil; and, in return, she assisted her friend with a long
series of elaborate comments upon the Dialogues of Plato, most of
which he embodied in the second edition of his translation.
Gradually her interest became more personal; she told him never
to work again after midnight, and he obeyed her. Then she helped
him to draw up a special form of daily service for the College
Chapel, with selections from the Psalms under the heads of 'God
the Lord, God the judge, God the Father, and God the Friend'--
though, indeed, this project was never realised; for the Bishop
of Oxford disallowed the alterations, exercising his legal
powers, on the advice of Sir Travers Twiss.

Their relations became intimate. 'The spirit of the Twenty-third
Psalm and the spirit of the Nineteenth Psalm should be united in
our lives,' Mr. Jowett said. Eventually, she asked him to do her
a singular favour. Would he, knowing what he did of her religious
views, come to London and administer to her the Holy Sacrament?
He did not hesitate, and afterwards declared that he would always
regard the occasion as a solemn event in his life. He was devoted
to her-- though the precise nature of his feelings towards her
never quite transpired. Her feelings towards him were more mixed.
At first, he was 'that great and good man'--'that true saint, Mr.
Jowett'; but, as time went on, some gall was mingled with the
balm; the acrimony of her nature asserted itself. She felt that
she gave more sympathy than she received; she was exhausted, and
she was annoyed by his conversation. Her tongue, one day, could
not refrain from shooting out at him: 'He comes to me, and he
talks to me,' she said, 'as if I were someone else.'


AT one time she had almost decided to end her life in retirement
as a patient at St. Thomas's Hospital. But partly owing to the
persuasions of Mr. Jowett, she changed her mind; for forty-five
years she remained in South Street; and in South Street she died.
As old age approached, though her influence with the official
world gradually diminished, her activities seemed to remain as
intense and widespread as before. When hospitals were to be
built, when schemes of sanitary reform were in agitation, when
wars broke out, she was still the adviser of all Europe. Still,
with a characteristic self-assurance, she watched from her
Mayfair bedroom over the welfare of India. Still, with an
indefatigable enthusiasm, she pushed forward the work, which,
perhaps, was nearer to her heart, more completely her own, than
all the rest-- the training of nurses. In her moments of deepest
depression, when her greatest achievements seemed to lose their
lustre, she thought of her nurses, and was comforted. The ways of
God, she found, were strange indeed. 'How inefficient I was in
the Crimea,' she noted. 'Yet He has raised up from it trained

At other times, she was better satisfied. Looking back, she was
amazed by the enormous change which, since her early days, had
come over the whole treatment of illness, the whole conception of
public and domestic health--a change in which, she knew, she had
played her part. One of her Indian admirers, the Aga Khan, came
to visit her. She expatiated on the marvellous advances she had
lived to see in the management of hospitals-- in drainage, in
ventilation, in sanitary work of every kind. There was a pause;
and then, 'Do you think you are improving?' asked the Aga Khan.
She was a little taken aback, and said, 'What do you mean by
"improving"?' He replied, 'Believing more in God.' She saw that
he had a view of God which was different from hers. 'A most
interesting man,' she noted after the interview; 'but you could
never teach him sanitation.'

When old age actually came, something curious happened. Destiny,
having waited very patiently, played a queer trick on Miss
Nightingale. The benevolence and public spirit of that long life
had only been equalled by its acerbity. Her virtue had dwelt in
hardness, and she had poured forth her unstinted usefulness with
a bitter smile upon her lips. And now the sarcastic years brought
the proud woman her punishment. She was not to die as she had
lived. The sting was to be taken out of her; she was to be made
soft; she was to be reduced to compliance and complacency. The
change came gradually, but at last it was unmistakable. The
terrible commander who had driven Sidney Herbert to his death, to
whom Mr. Jowett had applied the words of Homer, amoton memaniia--
raging insatiably-- now accepted small compliments with
gratitude, and indulged in sentimental friendships with young
girls. The author of "Notes on Nursing"--that classical
compendium of the besetting sins of the sisterhood, drawn up with
the detailed acrimony, the vindictive relish, of a Swift--now
spent long hours in composing sympathetic Addresses to
Probationers, whom she petted and wept over in turn. And, at the
same time, there appeared a corresponding alteration in her
physical mood. The thin, angular woman, with her haughty eye and
her acrid mouth, had vanished; and in her place was the rounded,
bulky form of a fat old lady, smiling all day long. Then
something else became visible. The brain which had been steeled
at Scutari was indeed, literally, growing soft. Senility--an ever
more and more amiable senility--descended. Towards the end,
consciousness itself grew lost in a roseate haze, and melted into

It was just then, three years before her death, when she was
eighty-seven years old (1907), that those in authority bethought
them that the opportune moment had come for bestowing a public
honour on Florence Nightingale. She was offered the Order of
Merit. That Order, whose roll contains, among other distinguished
names, those of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema and Sir Edward Elgar, is
remarkable chiefly for the fact that, as its title indicates, it
is bestowed because its recipient deserves it, and for no other
reason. Miss Nightingale's representatives accepted the honour,
and her name, after a lapse of many years, once more appeared in
the Press. Congratulations from all sides came pouring in. There
was a universal burst of enthusiasm--a final revivification of
the ancient myth. Among her other admirers, the German Emperor
took this opportunity of expressing his feelings towards her.
'His Majesty,' wrote the German Ambassador, 'having just brought
to a close a most enjoyable stay in the beautiful neighbourhood
of your old home near Romsey, has commanded me to present you
with some flowers as a token of his esteem.' Then, by Royal
command, the Order of Merit was brought to South Street, and
there was a little ceremony of presentation. Sir Douglas Dawson,
after a short speech, stepped forward, and handed the insignia of
the Order to Miss Nightingale. Propped up by pillows, she dimly
recognised that some compliment was being paid her. 'Too kind--
too kind,' she murmured; and she was not ironical.


Sir E. Cook. Life of Florence Nightingale.
A. W. Kinglake. The Invasion of the Crimea.
Lord Sidney Godolphin Osborne. Scutari and its Hospitals.
S. M. Mitra. Life of Sir John Hall.
Lord Stanmore. Sidney Herbert.
Sir G. Douglas. The Panmure Papers.
Sir H. Maxwell. Life and Letters of the Fourth Earl of Clarendon.

E.Abbott and L. Campbell. Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett.
A.H. Clough. Poems and Memoir.

Dr. Arnold

IN 1827 the headmastership of Rugby School fell vacant, and it
became necessary for the twelve trustees, noblemen and gentlemen
of Warwickshire, to appoint a successor to the post. Reform was
in the air--political, social, religious; there was even a
feeling abroad that our great public schools were not quite all
that they should be, and that some change or other--no one
precisely knew what--but some change in the system of their
management, was highly desirable. Thus it was natural that when
the twelve noblemen and gentlemen, who had determined to be
guided entirely by the merits of the candidates, found among the
testimonials pouring in upon them a letter from Dr. Hawkins, the
Provost of Oriel, predicting that if they elected Mr. Thomas
Arnold he would 'change the face of education all through the
public schools of England', they hesitated no longer; obviously,
Mr. Thomas Arnold was their man. He was elected therefore;
received, as was fitting, priest's orders; became, as was no less
fitting, a Doctor of Divinity; and in August, 1828, took up the
duties of his office.

All that was known of the previous life of Dr. Arnold seemed to
justify the prediction of the Provost of Oriel, and the choice of
the Trustees. The son of a respectable Collector of Customs, he
had been educated at Winchester and at Oxford, where his industry
and piety had given him a conspicuous place among his fellow
students. It is true that, as a schoolboy, a certain pompousness
in the style of his letters home suggested to the more clear-
sighted among his relatives the possibility that young Thomas
might grow up into a prig; but, after all, what else could be
expected from a child who, at the age of three, had been
presented by his father, as a reward for proficiency in his
studies, with the twenty-four volumes of Smollett's History of

His career at Oxford had been a distinguished one, winding up
with an Oriel fellowship. It was at about this time that the
smooth and satisfactory progress of his life was for a moment
interrupted: he began to be troubled by religious doubts. These
doubts, as we learn from one of his contemporaries, who
afterwards became Mr. Justice Coleridge, 'were not low nor
rationalistic in their tendency, according to the bad sense of
that term; there was no indisposition in him to believe merely
because the article transcended his reason, he doubted the proof
and the interpretation of the textual authority'. In his
perturbation, Arnold consulted Keble, who was at that time one of
his closest friends, and a Fellow of the same College. 'The
subject of these distressing thoughts,' Keble wrote to Coleridge,
'is that most awful one, on which all very inquisitive reasoning
minds are, I believe, most liable to such temptations--I mean,
the doctrine of the blessed Trinity. Do not start, my dear
Coleridge; I do not believe that Arnold has any serious scruples
of the UNDERSTANDING about it, but it is a defect of his mind
that he cannot get rid of a certain feeling of objections.' What
was to be done? Keble's advice was peremptory. Arnold was 'bid to
pause in his inquiries, to pray earnestly for help and light from
above, and turn himself more strongly than ever to the practical
duties of a holy life'. He did so, and the result was all that
could be wished. He soon found himself blessed with perfect peace
of mind, and a settled conviction.

One other difficulty, and one only, we hear of at this point in
his life. His dislike of early rising amounted, we are told,
'almost to a constitutional infirmity'. This weakness too he
overcame, yet not quite so successfully as his doubts upon the
doctrine of the Trinity. For in afterlife, the Doctor would often
declare 'that early rising continued to be a daily effort to him
and that in this instance he never found the truth of the usual
rule that all things are made easy by custom.

He married young and settled down in the country as a private
tutor for youths preparing for the Universities. There he
remained for ten years--happy, busy, and sufficiently prosperous.
Occupied chiefly with his pupils, he nevertheless devoted much of
his energy to wider interests. He delivered a series of sermons
in the parish church; and he began to write a History of Rome, in
the hope, as he said, that its tone might be such 'that the
strictest of what is called the Evangelical party would not
object to putting it into the hands of their children'. His views
on the religious and political condition of the country began to
crystallise. He was alarmed by the 'want of Christian principle
in the literature of the day', looking forward anxiously to 'the
approach of a greater struggle between good and evil than the
world has yet seen'; and, after a serious conversation with Dr.
Whately, began to conceive the necessity of considerable
alterations in the Church Establishment.

All who knew him during these years were profoundly impressed by
the earnestness of his religious convictions and feelings, which,
as one observer said, 'were ever bursting forth'. It was
impossible to disregard his 'deep consciousness of the invisible
world' and 'the peculiar feeling of love and adoration which he
entertained towards our Lord Jesus Christ'. 'His manner of awful
reverence when speaking of God or of the Scriptures' was
particularly striking. 'No one could know him even a little,'
said another friend, 'and not be struck by his absolute wrestling

with evil, so that like St. Paul, he seemed to be battling with
the wicked one, and yet with a feeling of God's help on his

Such was the man who, at the age of thirty-three, became
headmaster of Rugby. His outward appearance was the index of his
inward character; everything about him denoted energy,
earnestness, and the best intentions. His legs, perhaps, were
shorter than they should have been; but the sturdy athletic
frame, especially when it was swathed (as it usually was) in the
flowing robes of a Doctor of Divinity, was full of an imposing
vigour; and his head, set decisively upon the collar, stock, and
bands of ecclesiastical tradition, clearly belonged to a person
of eminence. The thick, dark clusters of his hair, his bushy
eyebrows and curling whiskers, his straight nose and bulky chin,
his firm and upward-curving lower lip--all these revealed a
temperament of ardour and determination. His eyes were bright and
large; they were also obviously honest. And yet--why was it? Was
it in the lines of the mouth or the frown on the forehead?--it
was hard to say, but it was unmistakable--there was a slightly

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