NIGHTINGALE (FLORENCE) Autograph letter signed ("Florence Nightingale"), to Captain Frederic Brine of the Royal Engineers, thanking him for his "kind recollection of us & the part we were privileged to take in our Country's late glorious calamity" which has touched her "very deeply", 30 Old Burlington Street, 24 November 1856

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Lot 34
NIGHTINGALE (FLORENCE)
Autograph letter signed ("Florence Nightingale"), to Captain Frederic Brine of the Royal Engineers, thanking him for his "kind recollection of us & the part we were privileged to take in our Country's late glorious calamity" which has touched her "very deeply", 30 Old Burlington Street, 24 November 1856: 'I FEEL THAT I HAVE BEEN SUCH A BAD MOTHER TO THEM TO COME HOME & LEAVE THEM IN THEIR CRIMEAN GRAVES'.

Sold for £ 2,167 (US$ 2,690) inc. premium
NIGHTINGALE (FLORENCE)
Autograph letter signed ("Florence Nightingale"), to Captain Frederic Brine of the Royal Engineers, thanking him for his "kind recollection of us & the part we were privileged to take in our Country's late glorious calamity" which has touched her "very deeply", and which she feels will please Mrs Shaw Stewart "who superintended, during all our heaviest time, actively & efficiently at the same Castle Hospital on Balaklava Heights" and praising the Royal Engineers for their contribution towards "the struggle for the freedom & national life of half the world" ("...I believe that we had to thank you for the erection of the Cross in question at Balaklava..."); and confessing to the crushing sense of responsibility she feels: "As to our poor fellows, who endured so patiently, all that belongs to their Memory & their Cause must be a sacred thing to us for ever – I feel that I have been such a bad Mother to them to come home & leave them in their Crimean graves – Nothing is so interesting to me as a recollection of our brave dead and a suggestion of what may still remain to be done for our Army"; with autograph envelope, addressed to Brine at Curragh Camp, stamped and postmarked and docketed "Miss Nightingale", 4 pages, very minor dust-staining to last page but overall in fine, fresh condition, envelope with some wear, 8vo, 30 Old Burlington Street, 24 November 1856

Footnotes

  • 'I FEEL THAT I HAVE BEEN SUCH A BAD MOTHER TO THEM TO COME HOME & LEAVE THEM IN THEIR CRIMEAN GRAVES'. This extraordinary letter dates soon after Florence Nightingale's return from the Crimea that July, and while she was agitating for action to be taken to avoid future disasters such as she had witnessed. An undated private note to herself, assigned by her editors to the end of the year, voices much of the same concerns as our letter: 'Oh my poor men who endured so patiently. I feel I have been such a bad mother to you to come home & leave you lying in your Crimean grave... But if I could carry any one point which would prevent any part of the recurrence of this our colossal calamity... then I should have been true to the cause of those brave dead' (Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters, edited by Martha Vicinus and Bea Nergaard, 1989, p.171).

    The recipient, Captain Frederic Brine RE, was himself a veteran of the Crimea, and our letter appears to have been written in acknowledgement of a handsomely illustrated book Brine wrote with a fellow veteran, Captain John Colborne (son of the general), entitled The Last Of The Brave; or Resting Places of Our Fallen Heroes in the Crimea and at Scutari (1857). Jane Shaw Stewart, to whom our letter also refers, had served as Nurse in Charge of the Castle Hospital at Balaclava.

    Florence Nightingale's last act before leaving the Crimea in the general evacuation of July 1856 was to supervise the erection, by Captain Brine's engineers, of the great marble cross that stood twenty-foot high by the Castle Hospital on the Balaclava Heights. Upon it she had the words inscribed, in English and Russian: 'Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us/ Gospodi Pomilori Nass'.
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