Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/26

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Nightingale
Nightingale
16

Institute convinced Miss Nightingale of the possibilities of making nursing a "calling" for ladies and no mere desultory occupation. Next year she spent some four months at Kaiserswerth (July to October), and went through a regular course of training as a sick nurse. On her return to her home at Embley Park she published a short account of Kaiserswerth, in which she spoke frankly of the dullness of the ordinary home life of English girls. Late in life she wrote of her visits to Kaiserswerth, 'Never have I met with a higher love, a purer devotion, than there. There was no neglect. It was the more remarkable, because many of the deaconesses had been only peasants: none were gentlewomen when I was there.' There followed further visits to London hospitals, and in the autumn of 1852 she inspected those of Edinburgh and Dublin. Great part of 1853 was devoted to various types of hospitals at Paris. Late in the same year she accepted her first administrative post. On 12 Aug. 1853 she became superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen, which was established in 1850 in Chandos Street by Lady Canning. Miss Nightingale moved the institution to No. 1 Upper (now 90) Harley Street. In 1910 it was resettled at 19 Lisson Grove, N.W., and was then renamed after Miss Nightingale.

In March 1854 the Crimean war broke out, and the reports of the sufferings of the sick and wounded in the English camps stirred English feeling to its depths. In letters to 'The Times' (Sir) William Howard Russell [q. v. Suppl. II], the correspondent, described the terrible neglect of the wounded, and the 'disgraceful antithesis' between the neglect of our men and the careful nursing of the French wounded. 'Are there no devoted women among us,' he wrote, 'able and willing to go forth to minister to the sick and suffering soldiers of the East in the hospitals of Scutari? Are none of the daughters of England, at this extreme hour of need, ready for such a work of mercy? Must we fall so far below the French in self-sacrifice and devotedness?' (cf. The Times, 15 and 22 Sept. 1854). On 14 Oct. Miss Nightingale offered her services to the War Office; but before her offer reached her friend, Sidney Herbert, then secretary of state for war, he himself had written to her on the same day, and proposed that she should go out to the Crimea: 'I receive numbers of offers from ladies to go out' (he told Miss Nightingale), 'but they are ladies who have no conception of what a hospital is, nor of the nature of its duties. . . . My question simply is, Would you listen to the request to go out and supervise the whole thing? You would, of course, have plenary authority over all the nurses, and I think I could secure you the fullest assistance and co-operation from the medical staff, and you would also have an unlimited power of drawing on the government for whatever you think requisite for the success of your mission.' Miss Nightingale made her plans with extraordinary speed. On 17 Oct. Lady Canning, who helped her in the choice of nurses, wrote of her, 'She has such nerve and skill, and is so gentle and wise and quiet; even now she is in no bustle or hurry, though so much is on her hands, and such numbers of people volunteer their services' (Hare's Story of two Noble Lives). On 21 Oct., within a week of receiving Herbert's letter, Miss Nightingale embarked for the Crimea, with thirty-eight nurses (ten Roman Catholic sisters, eight sisters of mercy of the Church of England, six nurses from St. John's Institute, and fourteen from various hospitals); her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, also went with her. Scutari was reached on 4 Nov., the eve of the battle of Inkerman. Miss Nightingale's official title was 'Superintendent of the Female Nurses in the Hospitals in the East'; but she came to be known generally as 'The Lady-in-Chief.'

Her headquarters were in the barrack hospital at Scutari, a huge dismal place, reeking with dirt and infection. Stores, urgently needed, had not got beyond Varna, or were lost at sea. 'There were no vessels for water or utensils of any kind; no soap, towels, or clothes, no hospital clothes; the men lying in their uniforms, stiff with gore and covered with filth to a degree and of a kind no one could write about; their persons covered with vermin.' One of the nurses, a week after arrival, wrote home, 'We have not seen a drop of milk, and the bread is extremely sour. The butter is most filthy; it is Irish butter in a state of decomposition; and the meat is more like moist leather than food. Potatoes we are waiting for, until they arrive from France.' Sidney Godolphin Osborne went out to visit Scutari soon after Miss Nightingale's arrival, and in a report on the hospital accommodation described the complete absence of 'the commonest provision for the exigencies' of the hour (cf. Osborne's Scutari and its Hospitals, 1855). Miss Nightingale's difficulties are incapable of exaggeration. The military and medical authorities already on the spot viewed her intervention as a