Newly discovered letters from Florence Nightingale to go on display

Newly discovered letters from Florence Nightingale to go on display

Newly-discovered letters between Florence Nightingale and her cousin are set to go on display and give a rare insight into her life.

The correspondence shows how the family of the legendary Lady of the Lamp didn’t understand her desire to become a nurse.

Florence also struggled to accept her position in society and rebelled against the traditional Victorian expectations.

The letters between her and Marianne Nicholson describe her life before and after the Crimean War when she became famous for tending wounded soldiers.

They are to be showcased in Yorkshire and curator of costume and textiles at Leeds Museums and Galleries, Natalie Raw, said they “reveal a lot” about her.

Ms Raw said: “The letters, which were recently discovered at Trelissick House in Cornwall, reveal a lot about Florence we don’t know so well.

“She struggled to accept her position in society and show how her relationship with Marianne changed as they chose different paths.

“Florence and Marianne were very close as cousins and spent a lot of time together when they were younger.”

The letters also show how Florence – considered to be the founder of modern nursing – struggled against her family’s expectations.

Ms Raw added: “As Victorian ladies, they were expected to get married, have children and run a household.

“Florence chose not to do that but Marianne went down the traditional route.

“In Victorian high society, nursing was seen as something for the lower classes and some of the letters reveal Florence’s frustrations as a young woman.

“It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that her family allowed her to do what she so wanted to do.”

Florence Nightingale letters - Copyright Ross Parry/SWNS Group - Credit Yorkshire Post/ number of the letters are also from her time in Crimea and one sketch by Marianne shows Florence and her team in France in 1854 as they made their way to the war zone.

Marianne became Lady Glaton through her marriage to engineer and hospital reformer Sir Douglas Glaton.

After returning from Crimea Florence became his trusted advisor as she tried to ensure hospitals were built with sanitary conditions.

When asked by surgeons to advise on the design of wards at Leeds General Infirmary, Sir Douglas consulted Miss Nightingale.

Ms Raw said: “Florence was very ill on her return from the Crimea but spent a lot of time writing letters.

“Together with Sir Douglas, she drew up plans for how the new ward in Leeds should be built, to be healthy for both patients and nurses with, for example, windows on both sides of the ward to ensure the air could flow.

“They were very much a partnership.”

Lady Marianne and Sir Douglas had a daughter, Miss Nightingale’s god-daughter, Gwendolen Gascgione and Gwendolen became the Lady of Lotherton Hall in West Yorkshire.

After the death of Sir Douglas in 1899, Lady Marianne moved to be with her daughter.

Also included in the exhibition are paintings, childhood sketches, jewellery, toys and Miss Nightingale’s desk that was brought to Lotherton by Lady Gwendolen.

Key fashion pieces from the era will also be on display including a day dress and evening dress similar to those Miss Nightingale and her cousins had worn in sketches by Lady Marianne.

Ms Raw added: “As young women, Florence and Marianne were very fashionable.

“Everyone has this view of Florence as a dark figure but Marianne’s sketches show her in bright colours going to balls. She was wearing pretty prints and colours.”

By Charlotte Court