Seacole/ Nightingale: Useful quotations


(1) Mary Seacole wrote about the rejection of her offer of help during the Crimean War in her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole (1857).

In my country, where people know our use, it would have been different; but here (England) it was natural enough that they should laugh, good-naturedly enough, at my offer… Once again I tried, and had an interview this time with one of Miss Nightingale’s companions. She gave me the same reply, and I read in her face the fact, that had there been a vacancy, I should not have been chosen to fill it… Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?

(2) The Morning Advertiser (19 January, 1855)

She (Mary Seacole) is often seen riding out to the front with baskets of medicines of her own preparation, and this is particularly the case after an engagement with the enemy.

(3) Letter written by Sir John Hall, Inspector-General of Hospitals (30 June, 1856)

She (Mary Seacole) not only, from the knowledge she had acquired in the West Indies, was enabled to administer appropriate remedies for their ailments, but, what was of as much importance, she charitably furnished them with proper nourishment, which they had no means of obtaining except in hospital, and most of that class had an objection to go into hospital.

(4) Illustrated London News (24th February, 1855)

Although the public have been presented with several portrait-sketches of the lady who has so generously left this country to attend to the sufferings of the sick and wounded at Constantinople, we have assurance that these pictures are “singularly and painfully unlike”. We have, therefore, taken the most direct means of obtaining a sketch of this excellent lady, in the dress she now wears, in one of “the corridors of the sick”.

(5) Letter in The Times on the activities of Florence Nightingale at Scutari (February, 1855)

Wherever there is disease in its most dangerous form, and the hand of the spoiler distressingly nigh, there is that incomparable woman sure to be seen; her benignant presence is an influence for good comfort even amid the struggles of expiring nature. She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and, as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her.

(6) Lady Alicia Blackwood, A Narrative of Personal Experiences and Impressions during a Residence on the Bosphorous throughout the Crimean War (1881)

She (Mary Seacole) had, during the time of battle, and in the time of fearful distress, personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as she could comfort, or alleviate the sufferings of those around her; freely giving to such as could not pay, and to many whose eyes were closing in death, from whom payment could never be expected.

(7) Report in The Times newspaper on the Royal Guards Regimental Dinner (26 August, 1856)

Among the visitors was Mrs Seacole, whose appearance awakened the most rapturous enthusiasm. The soldiers not only cheered her, but chaired her around the gardens, and she might have suffered from the oppressive attentions of her admirers, were it not that two sergeants of extraordinary stature gallantly undertook to protect her from the pressure of the crowd. However, the excellent lady did not appear in the least alarmed, but, on the contrary, smiled most graciously and seemed highly gratified.

This entry was posted in A Level History, British Empire, Crimean War, Empire and Expansion, History, Imperial Expansion 1815-1870, Victorian. Bookmark the permalink.

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