Charles Dickens knew Florence Nightingale but why?
When you become aware of connections between people, that seem, on the face of it, obscure, it might just be that the subject is more complicated than it seems at first.
Much social activism occurred in the Victorian period and many of the social reformers were women. Florence Nightingale was one of these women, known for her heroic efforts during the Crimean War, she was a highly significant figure in Victorian public life, far more embroiled in influential and political circles than possibly imagined.
- Florence was from a very wealthy background with considerable political connections
- In the first instance a nurse, she was committed to reform in terms of the health and hygiene of the nation
- She was an accomplished author, whose works had the power to influence public beliefs and behaviour
- Florence was very close to writers such as George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens, whose works revolved around the social and economic situation in Britain at the time
- Her own writings on the reform of nursing the poor used dramatic sensationalism to get across the message of the fear of contagion, she invokes the tone of the novel
- Florence is known to have distributed Dickens books to nurses and soldiers, she enjoyed the idea of philanthropy by middle class individuals working alongside the poor, fighting for reform in their own communities
- Dickens and Nightingale worked together on the Committee of the Association for Improving Workhouse Infirmaries
- Florence wrote on many subjects including famine in India where she addresses the politics that brought about such conditions
- When she failed to convey her message in straight descriptive writing she turned to a more narrative, rhetorical style of writing, taking as her inspiration the works of Gaskell and others
Stereotypical views of Florence Nightingale, as the nurse with the lamp, limit our view of the enormous influence she brought to bear, would Dickens novels have been as powerful and enduring without Nightingales influence? Probably not.
Would the sanitation and health reforms fought for so passionately by Nightingale have had the support of the British public, had she not adopted the narrative style of her friends such as Dickens? Probably not.
The literary culture pervaded many areas of Victorian society and had a mighty hand in reform and change
Look for more insights and intriguing connections between people who brought such influence and change to the lives of the people in your family history
Read Charles Dickens novel Bleak House for a very moving insight into female social reform in the guise of Mrs Jellyby
Posted in Literature, Intriguing Connections, Medicine, Authors Writers and Poets, Philanthropy, Europe, Leading Women, UK, Social Reformers, England, THEMES, Crimea War, LOCATION, Indian Sub-continent, Health and Sanitation, London, Theme Major Events, THEME Wars, battles and campaigns, THEME Science, engineering and innovation, TIMELINE, India, THEME Social reform and change, 19th Century 1800-1899, Women, Theme Intriguing People, Culture