Download Victorian Medicine and Social Reform: Florence Nightingale among the Novelists (Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters) PDF

TitleVictorian Medicine and Social Reform: Florence Nightingale among the Novelists (Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters)
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size2.1 MB
Total Pages218
Table of Contents
                            Cover
Contents
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1 Defending Home and Country: Florence Nightingale’s Training of Domestic Detectives
Chapter 2 On Giving: Poor Law Reform, Work, and Family in Nightingale, Dickens, and Stretton
Chapter 3 Competing Visions: Nightingale, Eliot, and Victorian Health Reform
Chapter 4 Engaging the Victorian Reading Public: Nightingale and the Madras Famine of 1876
Epilogue: Nightingale in the Twenty-first Century: The Legend versus the Life
Notes
Bibliography
Index
	A
	B
	C
	D
	E
	F
	G
	H
	I
	J
	K
	L
	M
	N
	O
	P
	Q
	R
	S
	T
	U
	V
	W
	Z
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Victor i a n Medicine a nd
Soci a l R efor m

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V i c t o r i a n M e d i c i n e a n d S o c i a l R e f o r m86

physically revolting parts of a hospital, but things about the
nurses and surgeons which you may guess. (qtd. in Cook, 44)

In her imagined dialogue with a mother in her abandoned
novel, Nightingale articulates in the daughter’s voice the
effects of having had such vocational ambitions thwarted:
After reminding her mother that she gave up her ambition to
learn in the hospital because her mother “would not suffer”
her plan, she suggests the lingering pain of her loss:

The vocation was so strong in me. I had thought of it ever
since I was six years old—I might have been the Howard of
hospitals, which I mention, not, I think, from any puerile
vanity now but merely because I believe, in that case, while
the vocation would have been the angels’ wings to bear me up
and I should not have dashed my foot against the stones. Oh!
If I had done it what a different creature I shousld have been.
But you could not tell that. I do not blame.

Interestingly the mother comforts her daughter by suggest-
ing that Howard’s reforms—referring to prison reformer John
Howard—had only done so much good: “Did not the prisons
remain in the same state as they were for a century after all his
efforts?” (CW 5: 114–15). Nightingale seems to be working
through in her own mind the possibility that her success in
reforming hospitals might have been similarly limited, even if
her efforts had not been thwarted through her mother’s stan-
dards of propriety. The “change” she desires clearly refers to
the effects she would produce in hospitals by promoting san-
itary principles within the hospital, employing trained female
nurses.

Of course it is ironic that, at the very moment when she her-
self is attempting a first novel, Nightingale creates a character
that questions the value of literary and artistic success in con-
trast to the societal benefits a hospital reformer might bring
about. But, if we take seriously the idea that Nightingale’s
abandoned novel suggests, that she early on imagined her-
self as having the ability to reform hospitals as Howard had

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C o m p e t i n g V i s i o n s 87

reformed prisons (and of course her sanitary work eventually
did reform hospital construction and design), were it not for
the over- protectiveness of her mother, then we can see just
how foundational were her sanitary principles to her vision of
the possible contribution that she, and through her other edu-
cated women, might make to society—even as early as 1845,
nine years before her Crimean war exploits began.

Perhaps our recognizing Nightingale’s early aspiration to
bring about widespread reform in hospitals—and in the pro-
cess provide opportunities for professionalizing educated
women—helps make her excessive distress with Middlemarch
understandable. For Nightingale, Eliot will have told a story
that hit close to home. It involved depictions of scientific pro-
gress with regard to hospitals and social reform purportedly
drawn from reality. Moreover, Eliot created in Dorothea, and
indeed in Lydgate, characters who aspire to great, heroic lives
as reformers, but who only achieve a small measure of hero-
ism primarily through their willingness to sympathize with
others and thus see beyond the limits of self. The fact that
the limited heroism the affectionate narrator awards to each is
clearly the result of each character’s active sympathy for those
whose lives their decisions most effect, will have been painful
for Nightingale to admire.

Housing, Health, and Hospitals

Middlemarch created numerous direct challenges to the san-
itary ideal of Nightingale. First, the novel introduces its her-
oine, Dorothea Brooke, by emphasizing her desire to find a
way to do good in the world. She first imagines contribut-
ing to the public good by creating plans to provide adequate
housing for the poor who live on her uncle’s estate—a scheme
of which Nightingale would no doubt have approved. Eliot
appears at first to engage with issues of sanitation in references
to Dorothea’s scheme for cottages, but Dorothea’s pleasure in
the cottages often appears to have more to do with appearance
than salubriousness. In the many references early in the novel
to Dorothea’s cottage scheme, we learn that that Dorothea

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