Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/10

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PREFACE

extent, to my own memory; for it was in those years that I was most closely associated with some parts of Octavia's work.

With regard to the letters, there are two points to note. First, I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to arrange them chronologically; not separating the special subjects, in which Octavia was interested, from each other, but rather suggesting the variety of interests which were occupying her mind at the same time. Secondly, I have endeavoured to emphasise the human and family sympathy, and not merely her business capacity.

There was an outcry in the papers a little time ago, with regard to Florence Nightingale, which took a rather peculiar form. These writers said that there had been too much sentimental talk about the "lady of the lamp" bending over the sick bed; and that this picture had obscured Miss Nightingale's real power of organisation and practical reform. Perhaps twentieth century hardness may be as blinding as nineteenth century sentiment. At any rate, the danger with regard to Octavia Hill is precisely of the opposite kind to that which was supposed to threaten the fame of Florence Nightingale.

Octavia's power of organisation, and her principles of discipline, have been allowed by many critics to thrust into the background her human sympathies. The figure of the landlady sternly exacting her rents seems to stand rather on the opposite side to the "lady of the lamp."

"Miss Hill," said a critic in the early days of her fame, "I was puzzled to make out how you succeeded in your work, till I realised that the broker was always in the background."