14 FEBRUARY 1880, Page 20


DOROTHY PATTISON, better known in the Black Country as Sister Dora," was one of the younger children of Mr. Mark Pattison, a Yorkshire clergyman. She was born in 1832, and early developed a force of character that irresistibly drew her to mark out for herself a line of active work. She was gifted with two qualities which fitted her eminently for the line she chose,—physical beauty, and a sense of humour. It was not, however, until she was nine-and- twenty that Dorothy Pattison finally entered upon her defi- nite career. Restless and energetic, a quiet home life became intolerable to her, and in spite of her father's strong disapproval, though not against his commands, she left home, and under- took the duties of a village schoolmistress at Little Woolston, on the borders of Buckinghamshire. There was no call for such a step on her part, except the strong self-will that all her life remained one of her most conspicuous characteristics. The years she passed at Little Woolston, though successful as far as her teaching and influence were concerned, do not appear to have satisfied the restlessness of her nature. But they strengthened her desire to consecrate her life and energies to work among the poor. An English Sisterhood established at Coatham, in Yorkshire, had for some time past attracted her, and in 1864 she made up her mind to join it. The move was a mistaken one. Thoroughly unfitted for community life, Sister Dora found herself cramped and fettered by the rules of the Sisterhood, and she was glad to exchange work at the Central Home for the position of nurse at a small hospital, worked by the same Sisters, at Walsall, in Staffordshire. A breach begun early between her and the Sisterhood widened year by year, until 1874, when the latter resigned all connection with the hospital, and Sister Dora willingly undertook the sole charge of it. Energy of will, combined with extraordinary physical strength, enabled her to combine work and responsi- bility to an extent of which few women are capable. It is related that on more than one occasion she lifted grown men in her arms as if they had been children, and long days of nursing, followed by nights of anxious watching, produced no apparent bad results on her health or spirits. The story of Sister Dora's life is simply told by Miss Lonsdale. Her work in Walsall threw her into the midst of the mining population in the iron and coal districts of South Staffordshire.

• Sister Dora: a Biography. By Margaret Lonsdale. London: C. Began Paul and Co.

Round about the large manufacturing towns have grown up suburbs surpassing the towns themselves in squalor, vice, and misery. With its overhanging haze of smoke and dirt, with 'no vestige of green leaf or grass to be seen for miles, that part of England known as "the Black Country," is a crying witness to the evil and corruption following in the train of those riches and luxuries which have brought to their owners no large- hearted love for the people who have helped to produce them. Any one who has travelled at night from Worcester to Wolverhampton will have seen the lurid flames of the great furnace-fires that light up sky and earth, and lend a wild beauty to what by day is ghastly and revolting. The high chimneys, belching out smoke, charge the air with poisonous effluvia. At night the fires, invisible by day, change the scene from low, grovelling squalor to the roar and glare of a volcanic hell. It is a land of recklessness and hopelessness, a land of drunkenness and sin. The character of the people suits their surroundings. Squalid and reckless, they become dead to the dangers to which their special work exposes them. With a contempt bred of familiarity, they do not take common precau- tion to avoid. accidents that are very generally fataL They carry their lives in their hands, as they descend into the bowels of the .earth, or tend the huge machinery, to approach too near to which means instant death, or, at best, loss of the limbs which which alone give them power of work and livelihood. It was surroundings such as these that called out in Sister Dora all the nobleness and heroism that belonged to her char- acter. Her self-devotion knew no bounds. On one occasion, she saved the life of a child at the last stage of diphtheria, by deliberately putting her mouth to the tube inserted. in the child's throat and clearing it of the poisonous mucous. More than once she restored respiration through her own breath to small-pox patients at the last stage. Her physical courage, too, was immense. One night she barred the entrance into the hospital by her own arm to a member of the swell mob, who attempted to force himself in. In her mission-work—for it was not only by nursing that Sister Dora used her influence for good--she boldly invaded the worst quarters of the town, by herself and at night. She would sit up night after night, watching alone in the small-pox hospital, with no power of calling any one to her assistance. Once she grappled hand-to-hand with a delirious patient, and through main strength and determination " got him back to bed, and held him there until the doctor arrived in the morning." It was probably through this grand force of character that she chiefly gained her influence over the poor. Her keen sense of humour and moral and physical courage aroused their admiration, while her self-devotion and sympathy with suffering rivetted their gratitude.

Miss Lonsdale has brought this noble side of Sister Dora strongly before her readers. At the same time, she does not hide from us that there were other and less attractive sides to the character she is picturing. Sister Dora had some of the weaknesses to which a nature such as hers is specially liable. Setting aside her marked self- will, which is often, after all, not necessarily a fault, we find in her that vein of jealousy, that " unworthy dislike of those who showed symptoms of ability to fill in any degree her place in the work," that impulse "to gather around her second and third and even fourth-rate workers, from whom it was impos- sible to choose when a substitute was wanted," which unfor- tunately has blurred and spoilt so many minds otherwise great, and so much good work. It is probable that she did not realise these failings clearly, and the comparative solitariness of her life would prevent her from necessarily coming in contact with char- acters and minds that would stand real comparison with her own. Still, the more noble the life and aspirations are, the more it is to be regretted when these unlovely traits force themselves upon our notice. Possibly, they would have faded away in the larger-heartedness of later life, if death had not ended Sister Dora's career while she was still in her prime. In the winter of 1876-77 she first became aware of the illness which was to end fatally in two years. She accepted the fact at once, and faced death with unbroken courage. For months she would allow no one to guess the nature of the disease. Per- haps we may feel that the pride that forbade her to ask sympa- thy from'others was not the part of her character that was the noblest. But though she could brook no pity, she could bear her lot with resignation and strength. She went on with her work as if it were to last for ever, and shrank from no effort and no fatigue that could bring any good to others. The end came on Christmas Eve, 1878, after eleven weeks of intense pain. Whether it could. have been delayed, if she had been willing to have confided her secret earlier to others, is doubtful. Any way, it was not in her nature to do so. Her pride was too strong and her heroism too great, to have made it an easy task to reverse the relations in which she had all her life found herself towards others. They had depended on her, had looked to her for help and pity, and she could not bring herself to ask for them again. This it is that makes it difficult for us to feel entirely drawn to Sister Dora. Miss Lonsdale has shown us that she was noble ; she has hardly brought home to her readers that she was equally lovable. One unusually strong point, however, Sister Dora possessed. Her clear-sighted intellect saved her from weaknesses into which most women fall who find themselves engaged in prominent work. It was not necessary for her to view what she did in couleur de rose. In her mission work among the poor, she claims no striking success, as success is counted. Her mind was strong enough and her heart large enough to work on without seeing results. That good results did follow, we have no doubt; but it is a sign of the truthfulness of Sister Dora's nature that she could be content to be devoted to a cause, quite irrespective of any special success upon which to plume herself. It is, however, by her nursing that she will live in the memories of the people she worked among. Her skill and touch rivalled those of the surgeons themselves, and one incident in particular brings out most strikingly her well-grounded self-reliance. A young man had been brought in with his right arm so mutilated by an accident, that the surgeon pronounced amputation alone could save his life. Sister Dora, relying on her own judgment and skill in nursing, undertook to save the arm. The surgeon washed his hands of the responsibility, and told her that it would be upon her con- science if the young man died. Nothing deterred, Sister Dora devoted herself to the case day and night for three weeks, and had the satisfaction, at the end of that time, of hear- ing the surgeon say, " Why, you have saved it, and it will be a useful arm to him for many a long year !" It is no wonder that, with facts like these coming daily before their notice, the people of Walsall hold her name in veneration, and that to her burial came all the population, rich and poor, not only of the town itself, but of the surrounding districts. The feeling of the people that prompts them to raise a statue to her memory is touchingly given by Miss Lonsdale, in the words of one of themselves ;—" Why, nobody knows better than I do that we shan't forget her,—no danger of that ; but I want her to be there, so that when strangers come to the place, and see her standing up, they shall ask us, Who's that ?' and then we shall say, Who's that ?—why, that's our Sister Dora.' "

In spite of some faults of style, and occasional repetitions, Miss Lonsdale has done her work well, and Sister Dora's career is brought graphically before the reader. There is one omis- sion, however, that we regret. In the preface it is said " that

many stories are told about Sister Dora possessing an element of the marvellous, nay, of the supernatural, which would have made her biography sensational, as well as more interesting." Miss Lonsdale gives us the reason why she does not insert them in her volume, and we think it wise that she has kept them out of the actual biography. At the same time, as they were a part of what was said about Sister Dora, and therefore in a way belonged to her history, we should have been glad if Miss Lonsdale had gathered them into a separate chapter at the end of the book, and left her readers to draw what conclusions they chose from them.