11 JULY 1931, Page 21

The Youth of Florence Nightingale

"PRAY let us love one another more than we have done. Mamma wishes it particularly ; it is the will of God and will comfort us in our trials through life "—so wrote Florence Nightingale as a very little girl. The service of God and the comforting of suffering humanity became the lasting passions of her maturity, but to these inspired ambitions " Mamma's " particular wishes were to prove obstructive. " Mamma's " was a peculiar character. Entirely worldly though not unamiable, the world she loved was a very respectable if a small one, whose inhabitants maintained a high standard of physical and moral comfort, turning their banks upon ill-conduct as resolutely as upon ill-health or ill-breeding. Mrs. Nightingale brought her daughters up well and kindly, engaging governesses to train them sympa- thetically among books and pictures, high principles and worthy self-satisfactions. Naturally, she expected them to be submissive and grateful ! Their father was a good and prosperous fellow, very fond of his children and more able than their mother to sympathize with the higher forms of discontent. He quite saw that an indoor life offered possi- bilities of dullness even if lived among fine company. But for rich girls who could let off their energies on horseback and rest themselves among "flaming azaleas, shadowy cedars and velvet lawns," what could be left to desire, unless a husband ? His younger daughter Parthe (short for Parthenope) was quite of his way of thinking. " Parthe

liked to think of herself as a simple, childlike creature. (She sometimes addressed herself as Miss Pop.') She had, she

said, many fair visions both sleeping and waking. She com- pared herself with her Foe, who never seemed very happy, not entirely to her own disadvantage." Miss O'Malley has a rare skill in depicting groups.

Poor Florence Nightingale's delightful surroundings drove her nearly distracted. Round the social island on which she had been born raged a sea of misery. She felt as though people were drowning all round her and she able to do nothing. She saw the various religious societies setting forth in their lifeboats, but she might not volunteer to go with them. True, she might watch them and "show an interest," give money, make friends with distinguished members of the crew, talk to Manning, listen to Lord Shaftesbury, but she must not lend a hand, she Must give her time to her social duties in England or abroad, and be thankful for a day to herself! No pains Must be spared te keep a place for the family in what " Mamma " called "the nicest society in Europe."

The woman who was destined to ease more physical suffering than anyone before her, save the inventor of chloroform, and to be almost worshipped by the London public, did not assert her independence till she was over thirty, did not till then obey the " call " which came to her at eight years old, to which she so often alluded but of whose precise form we are ignorant. On the other hand, she was no obscure daughter, losing her youth in servitude to her parents and their ideals. Wherever she went she left a strong impression of seriousness and purpose, wit and ability. She had refused several admirers, notably Monckton Milnes, had made and broken some ardent feminine friendships, and had already burst her home bonds and given herself to charity, when a Government, setting out upon the tragic blunders of the Crimean War, conceived the brilliant notion of sending this charming and conspicuous young woman to Scutari, at the head of a band of nurses—to govern the war hospitals.

There, as everybody knows, she worked miracles. First of all she made time. For her, as for so many men and women of genius, the sun stood still. Then, out of a motley crew of " gamps," high church ladies and nuns, she created an instrument from which she was able, among scenes of indescribable horror, to evolve the present nursing system. One of this "contemptible little army" turned out a woman of force and character, only second to her own, "far more fitted for the general superiptendency of the whole enterprise than myself," she said. Reverend Mother Mary Clare (Georgina Moore), together with her perfectly organized "daughters," became a tower of strength. The English ladies supplied an element of free enthusiasm, and perhaps wholesome criticism. But, when all was said, it was the " gamps " who bore the worst burden and heat of the day. It was not easy to keep theM from drink and flirtation, but they adored their chief, and with reason. They were hard- working, hard-headed, soft-hearted women, to whom the sight of blood and the wicked ways of rough men were no new thing. Mrs. Clarke (Florence Nightingale's good house- keeper), as she watched the welding of the different elements, found it difficult to apportion praise between them. Like a true Englishwoman, her natural sense of justice was as ingrained as her emstianism. "There's no doubt at all," said she, "but that them nuns will get into the Kingdom of Heaven long before any of us ; but that's no reason what- some-ever why they should have it all their own way here too, seeing ours is a Protestant Government and they be Romans." Miss Nightingale's note-book introduces us to some of the nurses of the rough type :

"Mrs. C. Active, clean, useful, kind and industrious, but wholly unfitted by the impropriety of her manners for a Military Hospital. Mrs. H. An excellent nurse, hard-working in Cholera and Fever where she is indefatigable. One fault, intemperance, not intoxica. tion. . . . Mrs. A. Active, clean, useful, strictly honest, kind— but the same fault, against which, however, sho struggles hard. Very

industrious. . . . Mrs. P. Rind, clever, useful ; good nurse, but deteriorating both as to sobriety and propriety, the latter is the

more to be deplored as she is a married woman IP

The doctors she summed up More succinctly. This sort of life, she says, makes them into angels or devils, adding that at the moment the proportion was as four to two, the angels being in the majority.

How htiman she was ! Every page of Miss O'Malley's book draws forth from the reader this uncritical exclamation. She has made her heroine live. We are loth to leave "the lady with the lamp" when the war ends. May we hope for