Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon

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9780374156657: Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon
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The common soldier’s savior, the standard-bearer of modern nursing, a pioneering social reformer: Florence Nightingale belongs to that select band of historical characters who are instantly recognizable. Home-schooled, bound for the life of an educated Victorian lady, Nightingale scandalized her family when she found her calling as a nurse, a thoroughly unsuitable profession for a woman of her class.  As the “Lady with the Lamp,” ministering to the wounded and dying of the Crimean War, she offers an enduring image of sentimental appeal. Few individuals in their own lifetime have reached the level of fame and adulation attained by Nightingale as a result of her efforts. Fewer still have the power of continuing to inspire controversy in the way she does almost a century after her death.  In this remarkable book, the first major biography of Florence Nightingale in more than fifty years, Mark Bostridge draws on a wealth of unpublished material, including previously unseen family papers, to throw new light on this extraordinary woman’s life and character. Disentangling elements of myth from the reality, Bostridge has written a vivid and immensely readable account of one of the most iconic figures in modern history.

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About the Author:

Mark Bostridge was born in 1961 and was educated at Oxford University. His biography of Vera Brittain, co-authored with Paul Berry, was selected as a book of the year by The Independent. He lives in England.

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Florence Nightingale
Part OneDaughter of England 1820--54My people were like children playing on the shore of the the eighteenth century. I was their hobby-horse, their plaything; and they drove me to and fro, dear souls! never weary of play themselves, till I, who had grown to woman's estate and to the ideas of the nineteenth century, lay down exhausted, my mind closed to hope, my heart to strength.FN, 'Cassandra', c. 1850--53 
 
 
Woman stands askew. Her education for action has not kept pace with her education for acquirement.FN, The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine, 1851 
 
 
To be alone is nothing -- to be without sympathy in a crowd --this is to be confined in solitude.FN, untitled draft novel, c. 1850--531. The Ridiculous Name of NightingaleTake a walk south from the Porta Romana in Florence today, along the Via Senese, then turn westwards, and you will soon find yourself climbing a steep path along a narrow winding road. High stone walls, mossy and mottled with age, obliterate the view in either direction, but tall cypress trees line the route, and olives and vines run down to the walls on both sides.Towards the summit, at a bend in the road, a large house comes into view. The Villa La Colombaia is now a convent junior school with an imposing modern stone façade, but parts of the house date back to the fifteenth century. On its garden side the original low building with shuttered windows, arranged around a courtyard, is still in existence. A gravel walk through an elegantly laid-out garden leads to a magnificent view over the city, of Brunelleschi's white ribbed dome amid a sea of red rooftops.It was from this 'Maison de Campagne', on a spring day in 1820, that twenty-six-year-old William Nightingale wrote to his brother-in-law Ben Smith about the expected imminent arrival of his second child. The city of Florence itself seemed deserted -- everyone was travelling to Rome for Holy Week -- but William and his heavily pregnant wife Fanny were taking advantage of the fine weather to ride up and down the hillside, he on a pony, she in a carriage driven by grey horses.As William wrote his letter, his first child, Parthenope, born just a year before in Naples, was wriggling about on his knee, proving 'so rumbustical I can hardly scribble'. He was confident that the new baby would be a boy, though apologetic that he could not report 'by the same post the arrival of a young Ulysses, the protector of Parthenope ... He is expected every minute not to say moment, but delays his arrival I know not why ...'It would be a further five weeks before William Nightingale was able to announce the birth of another daughter. 
 
'I found a house at Florence on the hill/of Bellosguardo,' wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Aurora Leigh. Walk on a short distance from the Villa La Colombaia, and the legendary beauty of this small area outside the city gates, which has attracted so many well-to-do and famous visitors through the centuries, is immediately apparent. A stone monument at the roadside records some of the distinguished names who have lived or stayed at Bellosguardo: among them, Galileo, who retreated here after his appearance before the Inquisition, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Brownings, Henry James, Clara Schumann and, the penultimate name on the list, above that of Violet Trefusis, Florence Nightingale.It is Henry James who provides the location of Florence Nightingale's birthplace with the link to a neat little biographical irony. For it was while staying, in 1887, at the Casa Brichieri-Colombi, another of the grand villas on the road leading to the brow of Bellosguardo, that James wrote the first draft of The Aspern Papers. James's novella, with its story of a would-be biographer who attempts to prise some letters of a famous American poet, Jeffrey Aspern, from an old woman, only to discover that she has burned them one by one, has been described as a moral fable for historians and biographers. It dramatizes the biographer's primordial fear: the destruction of the manuscript evidence, so vital to the craft, literally obliterated in a cloud of smoke.The contrast with the fate of Florence Nightingale's manuscripts could scarcely be greater. While not a scrap of the Aspern papers is left for posterity, Nightingale's biographer has to struggle hard not to be buried under a veritable mountain of material, to the extent that he may find himself occasionally wishing that the odd bonfire had actually taken place. Florence Nightingale was an inveterate hoarder. She preserved not only letters, diaries, personal notes and jottings, but also copies and drafts of letters -- and corrections of drafts. Identical, or almost identical, phrases in her letters sometimes make her seem like an actress rehearsing lines for a favourite role. At her death, paper was scattered through practically every corner of the first floor of her house at 10 South Street, even 'inside piano stools, behind coal scuttles, under sofas'. She had enough letters in her drawers, she had written in 1895, 'to cover Australia'.Today, the collection at the British Library, the second largest among personal archives after that of Gladstone, fills almost 200 bound volumes,and this represents merely the tip of the iceberg. At Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, the home for thirty years of Nightingale's sister Parthenope, Lady Verney, there is another massive collection, which includes Florence Nightingale's letters to her parents and sister, and correspondence between members of the extended Nightingale family network, over a period of more than a century. The London Metropolitan Archives are a third major Nightingale repository connected with the running of the nursing training school founded in Florence Nightingale's name at St Thomas's Hospital, in 1860. In addition to these, there are some 200 smaller holdings of Nightingale papers around the world. Although there are significant gaps in the records -- some sanctioned by Nightingale's family and executors, who destroyed certain letters after the appearance of the two authorized biographies by Sir Edward Cook and Ida O'Malley -- Florence Nightingale's life is one of the best documented of the Victorian age, certainly the best documented of any Victorian woman. And previously unknown letters continue to materialize, most dramatically during the Second World War, when it was only quick thinking on the part of some individual that prevented Nightingale's forty-seven surviving letters to one of her Crimean War colleagues, Reverend Mother Mary Clare Moore, from being burned during the attack by a V-2 rocket which destroyed the Convent of Mercy in Bermondsey.It might, though, have all turned out rather differently. As a young woman, in her first professional appointment, in 1853, as Superintendent of the Upper Harley Street Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness, Florence Nightingale had conceived of a time when she might start keeping her letters, '& after my death gratify the public with them'. Post-Crimea, however, and fame and influence made her more wary of the likely incursions of posterity, causing her to make radically different plans. 'Destroy', 'Return', 'Burn' are words which appear regularly from this time, scrawled across the upper left-hand corner of her letters. In 1860 she begged Henry (later Cardinal) Manning to burn her letters to him, adding that 'I have alas! met with such treachery in my poor life that any carelessness on the part of those I know to be friendly to me might easily be turned to bad account'; and four years later she recorded in a private note that she had 'taken effectual means' that 'all my papers' would be destroyed after her death. A clause in Nightingale's will of 1896 confirmed this arrangement. She 'earnestly entreated' her friendsand executors that all her letters, papers and manuscripts, with the exception of those relating to her work for India, be destroyed 'without examination'. Five years later she changed her mind. She still believed that the majority of her papers should be destroyed, but she was bequeathing them to her cousin Henry Bonham Carter, leaving him with the difficult decision of what to preserve. Evidently he couldn't bring himself to effect their mass destruction either.Why did Nightingale change her mind? She was certainly not oblivious to the threat posed by biography. 'I earnestly wish that no ... biography of me should be given by my family or friends,' she insisted in 1862 when the onset of severe spinal pain made her 'impatient for death'. Thirty years later, she joked, 'Well might Sir Cornwall Lewis say: "A new terror is added to death",' after learning that her letters to Sidney Herbert had been lent to his biographer, Lord Stanmore, without her consent. Yet she allowed plenty of material that was damaging to her own reputation to survive.1In the end its survival may simply be attributed to the fact that, towards the end of her life, Nightingale lacked the time and energy to embark on such a massive process of sorting and disposal. Alternatively, it could be seen as an expression of a lifelong inner conflict between a natural desire for recognition, and a deep religious conviction that she must walk invisible and avoid the snares and delusions of self-love. Or it may be that writing itself was so much a part of her identity that ultimately she could not bear to see her literary remains consigned to the flames.For writing was Florence Nightingale's lifeblood. This was a woman, after all, who even while in the depths of delirium in the Crimea, in May 1855, insisted on being brought pen and paper, and only with these in her possession did ...

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9780140263923: Florence Nightingale

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ISBN 10:  0140263926 ISBN 13:  9780140263923
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